Host: We want to introduce you to the newest member of 980 WCAP’s Expert Network. As I mentioned before the break, he’s a gentleman whose services we hope and pray that you will never require, but in case you do, you want to pay attention and keep his information handy because you never know what little curve balls throws at you. I want to introduce you to attorney Mike Bowser who’s joining us in studio this morning. Good morning counselor and welcome to Merrimack Valley Radio.
Michael Bowser: Good morning, Teddy. Happy to be here.
Host: Great to have you here. First of all, let’s introduce you to our audience. You’re an attorney. What’s your field of expertise?
Michael: I am an attorney with an office in Chelmsford. I have an office Nashua, New Hampshire, as well. I’m actually a Chelmsford kid. I graduated from Chelmsford High School in 1985, went on to Providence College, and I graduated from what is now the UNH Law Center in Concord, New Hampshire. I’ve been practicing for 17 years and my area of practice is essentially, I do criminal defense. About 90 percent of that is drunk driving defense or DUI defense, and I do a fair amount of personal injury litigation.
Host: What made you choose to that field, especially that expertise where you say you doing over 90 percent on drunk driving defense?
Michael: I handle about a hundred drunk driving defense cases a year, and those are pretty much evenly split between New Hampshire and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Most of my New Hampshire clients are Merrimack Valley residents who happen to be arrested in the state of New Hampshire. I get into it about 10 years ago really because I spent a fair amount of time in the District Court, especially in Lowell. I have friends and colleagues, some people that I respect quite a bit, that I watched many years ago doing their thing which happened to be drunk driving defense.
I’m a trial lawyer. I try more cases than anyone you will probably ever meet. I’m very comfortable in a court room and I get into it because I really enjoy the work.
Host: You mentioned you have a certification? There aren’t that many in the entire area that have this, right?
Michael: I am actually a board‑certified DUI defense specialist. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you are allowed to designate as such and New Hampshire as well, if you have been certified by an accredited association. Essentially, I am a member of the National DUI Defense College. That is a group and an association of drunk driving defense lawyers from across the country. There’s about a thousand members from all 50 states.
You apply to that entity, the NCDD as it’s called. You have to have six judicial recommendations. You have to have six lawyer recommendations. I actually got three recommendations from New Hampshire judges and three recommendations from some Massachusetts judges. I split the lawyers as well.
You have to give them proof that you have completed at least 60 DUI defense cases to verdict. They give them a list of 60. They’re right back, and then they want certified copies of 20 to make sure that it’s actually you and not an associate or partner that’s doing the work.
Once you’re accepted, you then have to sit for an exam, and that exam is very much like the bar exam. Constitutional law, professional ethics, and of course the science and the law behind drunk driving defense, breath testing, blood analysis.
I sat for that exam. I think it was about three years ago at Christmas time down in Florida. There was an oral exam, an appellate brief that had to be filed and you argue that in front of the regents of the National DUI Defense College, and I was fortunate enough to pass and I was accredited.
Host: 7:49 here on 980 WCAP, chatting with attorney Mike Bowser. Let me ask the question that a lot of our audience members out there are probably asking. You are defending people who have been charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired, sometimes, if lucky, not causing any type of damage or injury, oftentimes doing damage to people’s property or body and even in the worst cases, taking people’s lives.
How do you do that?
Michael: Well it’s serious business, and by way of example, you mention people that are impaired or intoxicated by alcohol. Over the past few years I’ve seen a real surge and uptick in the number of people actually charged with operating under the influence of drugs. Often times those drugs are exactly what are prescribed by their own doctors. DUI defense does not just encompass just those who have had too much to drink, but it also includes those that may be medicated or even using illicit drugs.
How do I do that? I take a very simplistic approach to my job. I’m in the protection business. I tell people flat out when I meet them, “If you hire me, my job is to protect you.”
In the criminal defense realm, there’s a judge. That judge, his job is to preside or her job is to preside over the trial. There’s a prosecutor that’s been elected. That prosecutor’s job is to protect the public and to prosecute cases.
My job is to defend those who are charged, and being charged and being guilty are two different things. My job is to protect that one defendant. If everyone else does their job, regardless of the outcome, then justice has been done.
Host: Counselor, I want to ask you a…Actually it’s kind of an interesting process. As I listen to you, you talk about how you handle a hundred cases a year and you like to go to trial. It seems to me that I think that people would get the picture that you know what, not everyone is interested in going to trial, especially in your expertise. Settling out of court because of busy dockets and what you have tends to be a way to go to basically disperse in certain cases.
In this particular case you want to go to trial. What’s your reasoning for wanting to take cases to trial? You seem to enjoy going to court, that seems to be a good thing. What are the reasons to go to trial versus settling out of court?
Michael: A perfect example is the potential outcomes. Here in the Commonwealth, we have what is called Melanie’s Law. Melanie’s Law was passed going on a decade now ago to change the status of what your past means in terms of an OUI prosecution. We have what is called a “lifetime look‑back,” meaning if you have an OUI disposition regardless of whether it’s a continuance without a finding, which is a very popular plea in terms of resolving cases quickly and cheaply. But that continuance without a finding whether it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, hangs around on your record forever, meaning your next offense is a second.
Quite often times I find myself representing folks that are married, kids, careers, mortgages, and they might have had a couple hiccups back in the ’80s or even the late ’70s, and then you fast forward 30 years and they’re now facing a third offense.
An OUI third, which carries a mandatory minimum six months in the house of correction, a potential eight‑year loss of license, and you can imagine the devastating effect that that could have upon a family or any one individual.
Therefore, when I meet someone I say, “Listen, you have to think in terms not only of today, what you’re charged with today, but looking forward.” Not that I encourage people to go out and do it again, there but for the grace of God, it can happen to anyone.
It can happen a second time. It can happen a third time. I’m very much in favor of not giving away a first offense. I’m very much in favor of defending cases, making the government prove their case, and let the chips fall where they may.
Host: 7:53 here on 980 WCAP, chatting with attorney Mike Bowser. Counselor, you mentioned you have an office in Chelmsford and one in Nashua. How do the laws apply? Are they different between the two states? In all other areas of law it seems that there’s a disparity in what you can and can’t do in one state or another. How about in the 50 states and in particular for our audience, Massachusetts and New Hampshire?
How are the drunk driving laws, the OUI laws, different? Or how are they similar?
Michael: What’s interesting is that it is a crime in every state to drink to the point where you’re impaired. If you are unsafe to drive, that is essentially what the drunk driving laws in every state are designed, to remove the driver from the road who is unsafe to drive.
Host: Is that limit, is it .08? Is that standard across the country at this point or do the states have different blood alcohol content levels they accept?
Michael: Every state is operating now on a .08 level for those who are driving the mom and pop station wagon, their own particular vehicle. If you’re a CDL driver operating a CDL vehicle, there is a lower limit in every state and under the federal regulations. The difference between the two states, in Massachusetts the government has to prove that your ability to operate safely was impaired, reduced, or diminished by the consumption of alcohol.
In the state of New Hampshire, the government needs to prove that you’re impaired to any degree by alcohol. There’s no relationship to the ability to operate safely, which is an interesting difference between the two states.
Most significantly in New Hampshire, we made a big deal a couple years ago here in Massachusetts about bench trials. Which means jury‑waived, going in front of a judge and letting the judge hear the evidence and render the verdict.
There was some todo in the Boston Globe about the frequency of not guilty verdicts in front of certain judges. In New Hampshire, every single first offense is a bench trial. There’s no right to a jury trial because there’s no potential jail sentence on a first offense in New Hampshire. There is no jury for the first offense.
Now, New Hampshire, significantly, I heard you this morning talking about an aggravated DWI.
Host: Yeah. What is an aggravated DWI?
Michael: In New Hampshire, there are enhanced penalties for certain drunk driving offenses, aggravated DWI being one of them. In New Hampshire, if your blood alcohol or breath test results are .16 or higher, which is twice the legal limit, or you’re operating a motor vehicle in excess of 30 miles an hour over the posted speed limit and you’re charged with DWI, those will both trigger an aggravated DWI charge, which means up to a year in jail as a maximum penalty, additional loss of license, requirement of an interlock device upon conviction, typically that you see the first offense does require a mandatory minimum jail sentence.
It used to be three days in the house of correction, now it’s up to five with some treatment. Aggravated is an enhanced penalty in New Hampshire, which we do not have in Massachusetts.
Host: Will an offense and slash conviction in one state carry over to another? I know from experience getting a speeding ticket one time in North Carolina, never caught up to me here in Massachusetts. Will an offense in any state carry over to another state?
Michael: It will. There are exceptions to every rule, but typically the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicle…And what’s interesting is you can have a case, for instance, in New Hampshire, where they have a 10 year look‑back. You’ve got a client who has a prior OUI in 1989. He gets arrested in 2013 in New Hampshire. New Hampshire is going to treat him as a first offender because they have a 10‑year look back.
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, when they are notified of that out‑of‑state conviction, are going to treat it as if it happened here and they’re going to treat it as a second offense or a third or a fourth, depending on your administrative record with the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
In my experience with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, when you go to get reinstated they’re going to run your license number, obviously, your date of birth, your Social Security. If there is an offense out there they will update your record. They will make it part of your driver’s history and it is there, then, forever.
Host: Our discussion has triggered a number of followup questions that I want to ask. You’re going to be with us in the coming weeks. We’re going to talk a little bit more about the breathalyzer and field sobriety tests and their reliability. There’s a lot of questions out there about how accurate they may or may not be. You also talked a little bit about prescription drugs that people are on and how that may apply. We see so many people now on some type of a prescription drug for mood, behavior, or whatnot.
We’ve got a ton of questions and we’re going to get to them in the coming weeks but I do want to give you an opportunity. Let our audience members out there…
Again, we hope that you will never, ever need the services of Attorney Bowser, but if you, how can people find out a little bit more about this law and what do they need to know about contacting you should they ever be in this situation?
Michael: The Internet is a beautiful thing. I must say that I’ve been fortunate over the years to get a number of referrals from other attorneys, both in Mass and New Hampshire, obviously from other clients, but I do receive a lot of inquiries through the Internet. I have a website. That website is www.bowserlaw.com and, as I said, I have an office in Chelmsford and one in Nashua, New Hampshire. The office number in Chelmsford is area code 978‑256‑2700, and if you’re local up in New Hampshire trying to reach me there, it’s 883‑8488.
Host: Do you have a Facebook page as well, or you haven’t gotten that far yet?
Michael: I have Facebook and I have Twitter, and I have Tweeted, and I have tried to update. I must say though, I have very good people behind my website. I am not a computer person, per se. My daughter, who is going to be 15 years old, is light years ahead of me.
Host: All right. The website one more time?
Host: Attorney Mike Bowser, the newest member of our Expert Network. We’ll talk in the coming weeks.