New Bedford Highway Drugged Driving Case Goes Ahead
NEW BEDFORD — The case against a man accused of crashing his car on the highway in New Bedford while on drugs will proceed, after a Jan. 20 decision from the state's supreme court.
David Cordeiro, Jr. was charged with negligent driving, driving under the influence of narcotics, driving with a suspended license, and heroin possession after state police allegedly found him passed out next to his girlfriend's damaged car in June 2021.
A lower court judge had dismissed the vehicle-related charges for lack of proof that Cordeiro had been the person driving the car, despite the fact that police didn't find anyone else nearby.
But in the Jan. 20 decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision, noting that there was evidence pointing to Cordeiro being the driver.
The justices also stated that the standard of proof for charging a person is much lower than for a conviction.
The incident leading to the charges
It was raining heavily on June 12, 2021, when a state trooper responded to a call reporting someone who needed help changing a tire, according to the written decision.
Upon arrival, the trooper saw a vehicle in the breakdown lane with "extensive damage" and Cordeiro unconscious on the ground.
His head was between the driver's side wheel well and the front bumper.
After calling medics and dragging Cordeiro to a safer spot near the guardrail, the trooper asked him if he was overdosing — and according to the trooper, Cordeiro nodded.
Police said he drifted in and out of consciousness before allegedly trying to break through the group of troopers, who restrained him.
Troopers also allegedly found multiple pills inside the vehicle as well as a glass smoking pipe with residue and a white powder thought to be heroin.
Evidence of driving
According to state police, the driver's seat was adjusted to a position consistent with the defendant's height — and the passenger side floor board was dry, while the driver's side floor was wet.
Cordeiro later told state police as he was being booked that a friend of his was actually the one driving the vehicle before it crashed.
He said his friend must have taken off while he was inspecting the damage, and that the narcotics in the vehicle were also planted there by the friend.
State police noted they had not received any calls about a pedestrian on the road at the time.
Supreme Court decision
Although a lower court judge dismissed the motor vehicle charges against Cordeiro on the grounds that police couldn't be certain he was actually driving, the supreme court justices disagreed.
They wrote in their decision that "a defendant's uncorroborated, self-serving statements may be discounted" in determining probable cause, and that troopers' observations at the scene contradicted Cordeiro's statements.
"It was raining heavily, and the driver's side floor board was wet, while the passenger's side floor board was dry," the justices wrote.
"There was no report of a pedestrian on the roadway. As these facts are inconsistent with the existence of a second person, probable cause remained despite the defendant's story."
Therefore, the justices concluded, "a person of reasonable caution" could believe that Cordeiro was in fact driving at the time of the crash.
They reinstated all three motor vehicle charges.
It is unclear when Cordeiro will reappear in New Bedford District Court.