Video: Plymouth County Welcomes Drunken Drivers

By Will Godfrey 11/07/11

If you're charged with drunk driving in one Massachusetts county, it seems to be difficult not to get acquitted.

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Plymouth County, Massachusetts, could be the easiest place in the country to drive drunk and get away with it. Massachusetts in general has an astronomical DUI acquittal rate of over 80%, and Plymouth County may well be the "epicenter" of such leniency, reports the Boston Globe. Accused drivers in the county exercise their right to waive a jury trial in 75% of cases, and there's a reason for that: the judges in bench trials here find 86% of such defendants not guilty. And certain judges are particularly sought-after by defense attorneys; for example, Thomas S. Barrett and Toby S. Mooney can boast acquittal rates of 94% and 96% respectively in such cases. Some "quirks" of the law boost these figures. In Massachusetts, refusing to take a breathalyzer can't be held against you in court, and you won't lose your license for it either, as long as you're ultimately found not guilty—which, as we've established, is likely. "The fact that somebody refused doesn't mean anything except that they refused," insists former district court judge Tom Merrigan. "They might have a medical condition, they might have heard stories that these machines are unreliable..." This filmed report examines other examples of Plymouth County's inventively generous attitude towards any driver who may just possibly have been over the limit, such as the 2008 case of 24-year-old Caleb Maddous. He crashed into a house by the roadside no fewer than three times in the same accident, before vomiting and telling a paramedic, "No, I can't drive drunk." He was acquitted.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.

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