In Massachusetts and many other states, individuals can be punished when, after realizing their inability to drive safely, they voluntarily pull over to sleep it off. Whether this is in the interest of public policy is highly debatable. The reasoning is that drivers who are questioning their own sobriety should not be encouraged to test their uncertainties on the roads. One the other hand, this rule is problematic and may actually encourage drunk driving.
Drivers who become aware that they are impaired might be more likely to keep driving, rather than pull over, in order to avoid potential legal consequences. They may prefer the risks of driving while impaired to the risk of law enforcement discovering them parked on the side of the road drunk or asleep.
The counter-argument is that people who have been drinking shouldn’t get behind the wheel in the first place, and that is what drunk-driving/OUI/DUI laws are designed to discourage. This is basically an all or nothing approach, and in that way it is overly idealistic. No matter what the drunk-driving laws may be, the reality is that some people will probably still continue to drive after drinking when they feel that they are sober enough to do so. It seems that if one determines at some point that he/she is not able to drive safely, there should be no question that pulling over is the best course of action, but this rule can cloud that in the minds of some individuals.
Under Massachusetts law, “operating” under the influence basically means setting the power of the vehicle in motion. You can be convicted even if you simply put the key in the ignition. In addition, when police approach a car that is pulled over on the side of the road or in a breakdown lane, the encounter may not even be considered a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes as long as the “well-being check” is reasonable and there is an objective basis for the officer to believe that a person might be in trouble. As a Massachusetts drunk-driving attorney, I can protect your rights and combat these difficult charges.
Call the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. at (617) 263-6800 or contact us online if you’ve been charged with a Massachusetts OUI.