What rights do Massachusetts drivers have at sobriety checkpoints?

It is important for drivers to understand what rights they have when stopped at sobriety checkpoints to protect themselves from unnecessary OUI arrests.

Used as a strategy to prevent or cut down on drunk driving, law enforcement agencies throughout Massachusetts often set up sobriety checkpoints. Stopping a certain portion or all the vehicles that pass through a pre-specified location, these checkpoints commonly result in OUI arrests. In fact, there were 331 OUI arrests at such stops in 2016 alone. Due to the potential severity of the penalties they face if convicted of drunk driving in Massachusetts, it is essential for motorists to understand their rights when stopped at sobriety checkpoints.

Talking to law enforcement

When approached by law enforcement officers, people often feel obligated to respond to any questions they have. The same is true of drivers when stopped at sobriety checkpoints. However, motorists are not required to speak with the authorities in such cases. Rather, they may choose to present them with a card or document specifying their desire to enact their constitutional rights, which includes the right to consult with a legal representative before they answer any questions.

Performing roadside tests

If law enforcement has reason to believe drivers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may ask them to perform a series of roadside tests. The authorities may use people's performance on these assessments, also known as field sobriety tests, as evidence of their intoxication and grounds for their arrests. It is important for motorists to understand that, while law enforcement officers may fail to inform them of their options, they can refuse such tests. Drivers should keep in mind, however, that submitting to them may help prove to the authorities that they are not driving impaired and should be allowed to go on their way.

Submitting to chemical testing

In order to obtain specific evidence of drivers' intoxication level, law enforcement may ask them to submit to breath or blood testing to determine their blood alcohol content level. Under the state's implied consent law, once people are arrested for OUI, they are deemed to have given consent for such tests. Failure to provide a breath or blood sample to the authorities may result in a mandatory driver's license suspension. This penalty is levied in addition to any they may face if convicted of drunk driving.

Obtaining legal representation

When Massachusetts drivers are arrested for impaired driving, the potential consequences may be serious and long-lasting. In addition to facing possible fines, a suspension of their driving privileges and jail time, their jobs and future employment opportunities may also be impacted. Therefore, those who have been charged with OUI may find it helpful to seek legal counsel. An attorney may help them develop a solid defense against the charges they are facing, which may include questioning if their rights were violated at any point during their stops.