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Commonwealth v. Wilson

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth

September 8, 2016

COMMONWEALTH
v.
JASON WILSON.

          Heard: March 24, 2016.

         Complaint received and sworn to in the Brockton Division of the District Court Department on February 16, 2012.

         The case was heard by Mary L. Amrhein, J.

          Max Bauer for the defendant.

          Mary E. Lee, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Hanlon, Sullivan, & Maldonado, JJ.

          HANLON, J.

         After a jury-waived trial in the District Court, the defendant was convicted of operating a motor vehicle after his license or right to operate had been suspended for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUI). See G. L. c. 90, § 23, third par. He appeals, arguing that his motion for a required finding of not guilty was wrongfully denied because the Commonwealth failed to prove that he had notice that his license had been suspended. We affirm.

         At trial, the Commonwealth called one witness and offered one exhibit; the underlying facts are not in dispute. Trooper John Santos of the Massachusetts State Police testified that, on January 30, 2012, at approximately 8 P.M., he was observing traffic on Spark Street on the north side of Brockton. He saw a white Cadillac with a defective tail light and a damaged brake light. He stopped the car and asked the driver for his license and registration. The driver, later identified as the defendant, produced a registration for the car and said that his name was Jason Wilson. He also told the trooper his date of birth and current address. He never produced a Massachusetts driver's license. The trooper, after checking with the Registry of Motor Vehicles on his "mobile data terminal, " gave the defendant a summons for the civil motor vehicle infractions and also for "operating with a suspended license."

         After the trooper's testimony, the Commonwealth offered a certified copy of a docket sheet, number 1106 CR 2028, showing that on January 11, 2012, nineteen days before the defendant was stopped by Trooper Santos, the defendant had appeared in the West Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court and admitted that there were facts sufficient to support a finding of guilty on a charge of OUI in violation of G. L. c. 90, § 24(1) (a.) (1) (count 1); and operating a motor vehicle after his license or right to operate had been suspended, in violation of G. L. c. 90, § 23 (count 2). In addition, the defendant had pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after causing personal injury, in violation of G. L. c. 90, § 24(2) (a. 1/2) (1) (count 3).

         The docket sheet in that case indicates that on count 1, the OUI charge, the defendant received a continuance without a finding for one year, with conditions of probation including completion of the G. L. c. 90, § 24D, program, payment of certain fees, and a "45 day LOL" (loss of license). On count 3, the leaving the scene after causing personal injury conviction, the defendant received a concurrent sentence of probation, with the notation "loss of lie. as by law."[1]

         In order to obtain a conviction in the present matter, "the Commonwealth was obligated to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, (1) that the defendant operated a motor vehicle; (2) that at the time of that operation the defendant's license was revoked or suspended; (3) that the license suspension or revocation was pursuant to a violation of one of the specified statutory sections (including [OUI] in violation of G. L. c. 90, § 24 [1] [a.]); and (4) that the defendant was notified that his license had been suspended or revoked." Commonwealth v. Oyewole, 470 Mass. 1015, 1016 (2014) (quotation omitted).

         In Oyewole, the court described the following facts.

"In October, 2009, the defendant admitted to sufficient facts to support a finding of guilty on a charge of operating while under the influence of liquor (OUI case). According to the docket sheet from that case, his license was suspended for sixty days. Less than sixty days later, a Wilmington police officer, observing that a motor vehicle had its headlights off at 12:30 A.M., stopped the vehicle. The defendant was the driver and only occupant of the vehicle. The officer requested the defendant's license, which the defendant produced. The officer confiscated the license and placed the defendant under arrest."

Id. at 1015-1016.

         The Oyewole court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to prove that the defendant had operated a motor vehicle after his license or right to operate had been suspended for operating under the influence. However, even considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, "[a]s to the fourth element, . . . the evidence presented at trial, together with all reasonable and possible inferences that might properly be drawn from it, was insufficient to permit a reasonable fact finder to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant had been notified of the license suspension." Id. at 1016.

         The court noted that there was no evidence in the record that the docket sheet had been shown to the defendant, or that the sentence was announced in open court. "There was also no evidence that the defendant acknowledged, at the time of the stop or at any other time, that he was aware of the suspension. Moreover, the evidence showed that when he was stopped, the defendant had his license in his possession and gave it to the police officer. When a license is suspended in connection with a conviction for operating while under the influence, G. L. c. 90, § 24D, fourth par., requires that the license be surrendered to the probation department. Here, however, the defendant apparently did ...


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