Report: Massachusetts Judges Throw Out Most Drunk Driving Cases

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An award-winning investigative reporting series in the Boston Globe finds that most cases-- 85 percent-- don't make it to court. The accused driver pleads out, pays a fine, loses a license or does mandatory alcohol education.

But of the 15 percent of cases that do make it to court, most are heard by judges instead of juries, and at least 80 percent of the time judges throw out those cases.

It's the highest acquittal rate in the country-- on average nationally, judges throw out about half of drunk driving cases.

The Globe reports that the alleged drunk drivers are walking out of court completely free of any penalties.

Free, like one acquitted driver who barreled the wrong way onto a Route 1 ramp - and slammed into an oncoming car, sending both drivers to the hospital.

Or like another, who deliberately ran over a man, leaving him bloodied and lying on the ground, during an early morning confrontation on Route 28 in Middleborough.

Or free to gloat, like the woman who brazenly bragged to Plymouth police that “my OUI that I have is going to get thrown out, and [my lawyer] will take care of this one, too,’’ during her arrest for drunken driving only a month after she allegedly hit a truck with more than twice the legal amount of alcohol in her bloodstream.

Changes in state law meant to toughen penalties for drunk driving are partly to blame.


  • Marcella Bombardieri, reporter for the Boston Globe spotlight team
  • Jonathan Saltzman, reporter for the Boston Globe spotlight team

This segment aired on March 13, 2012.


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