Sobriety checkpoints in Massachusetts

This post discusses the background of sobriety checkpoints in the state and potential defenses to DUI charges.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution provides for protection against unreasonable searches. In an attempt to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the nation's roadways, many states started running sobriety checkpoints. These checkpoints are basically set up on a roadway. At these checkpoints, officers require vehicles to stop and the driver to have a brief conversation with the officer. During this time, the officer is checking for any signs of intoxication.

Drivers that were charged with drunk driving violations at these stops contended that the sobriety checkpoint stop was an unreasonable search. The Supreme Court of the United States and Massachusetts's highest court held that a brief stop at a sobriety checkpoint is not unreasonable. As a result, it is legal for enforcement officers to run checkpoints throughout the state.

The state generally announces when and where the checkpoints will occur. These checkpoints often increase during holiday seasons. A stop at a checkpoint can lead to criminal DUI/OUI charges.

What are common defenses to DUI charges in MA? Getting charged with a crime is not the end. Those facing these charges can fight back. This post will discuss three different types of defenses: improper stop, challenges to the evidence and an alternate explanation for impairment.

Officers are required to follow proper protocol when making a stop. A failure to do so can result in an improper stop. This defense begins with a review of the stop. Did the officer have evidence that the driver was operating his or her vehicle in an erratic manner? Were any traffic laws broken? If the officer cannot justify the stop it will likely be improper. Stops at checkpoints can also be challenged if it appears the driver was improperly chosen for the stop.

A challenge to the admittance of evidence will generally involve a careful review of the methods used to gather and test the evidence used to build a case against the accused party. Results of a blood test, breath test and field sobriety test can be challenged. A challenge could involve questions about the calibration or working order of machines used to conduct the tests as well as the methods used to gather and store the evidence.

These defensive strategies are not one-size-fits-all. It is important to tailor each strategy to the facts of each case. As such, it is wise for those who are facing allegations of criminal wrongdoing to seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can review the charges and craft the right defensive strategies to your case, better ensuring your legal rights are protected.