The holidays are upon us — and with them come a lot of parties and family gatherings that offer opportunities to drink. Police agencies are very aware of drunk driving during the holidays, and they tend to step up their enforcement efforts on the days they believe people are most likely to drive drunk. In fact, according to a Nov. 6 article in the Woburn Advocate, the Massachusetts state police have already started. In that article, they announced a sobriety roadblock in Middlesex County on Friday, Nov. 13 and Saturday, Nov. 14.
In my experience as a Massachusetts OUI defense attorney, drivers can expect to see more of these roadblocks, particularly on the nights before and after major holidays. That’s why I would like to take a moment to explain the rights of Massachusetts motorists caught in a sobriety checkpoint. A sobriety checkpoint is essentially a roadblock in which law enforcement stops motorists to check them for signs of impairment by alcohol or drugs. It is completely legal for law enforcement to stop every driver, regardless of whether there’s evidence of intoxication, and detain them briefly. However, roadblocks in Massachusetts must be conducted according to guidelines created by the Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and in accordance with Massachusetts case law and state and federal constitutional guidelines. If the police fail to adhere to those guidelines, the entire stop and all of the evidence it produced may be thrown out of court, ending any drunk driving prosecution.
It’s also important for drivers to realize that all of their civil rights still apply at a sobriety checkpoint. Drivers must provide license and registration, but they are under no obligation to answer extra questions about where they’ve been, where they’re going or whether they were drinking. They also have the right to decline to allow a search of the vehicle. Police cannot search a vehicle without your permission unless they have probable cause. Drivers can legally decline to perform field sobriety tests and may also decline a breath test, although they will face an automatic license suspension if they do so. However, it’s important to decline all of these things as politely as possible, because bad blood with law enforcement officers can result in being unreasonably verbally abused, detained or arrested. An experienced Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer can help clients have unreasonable, illegal charges dismissed — but not before an arrest, night in jail and other unpleasant personal and financial consequences.
If you’re charged with drunk driving in Massachusetts, whether it’s during a sobriety roadblock or a traffic stop, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman for help. Based in downtown Boston, attorney Neyman represents people facing OUI and related charges throughout eastern Massachusetts. To discuss your legal options with an experienced attorney, please contact our office online or call (617) 263-6800 today.