Roadblocks and Sobriety Checkpoints in Massachusetts

With the arrival of spring (hopefully) around the corner, as well as Massachusetts’s most beloved holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, on the horizon, you may start to see the occasional roadblock, or sobriety checkpoint. It’s important to know your rights, should you be confronted with a roadblock. Roadblocks are essentially a pre-designated checkpoint where the state or local police stop cars driving through a specific area and check the driver for signs of alcohol or drug impairment. Although it is perfectly legal for police to stop your vehicle at one of these roadblocks and request your license and registration, that does not mean that your 4th amendment rights can be ignored. Even at one of these checkpoints, the constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. You may politely decline to answer any questions, such as whether or not you have consumed alcohol. You can also decline to have your vehicle searched unless the police have probable cause. Additionally, like any OUI/DUI stop, it is well within your rights to politely decline to perform Field Sobriety Tests or a Breathalyzer test. Failure to submit to a Breathalyzer, however, will result in a temporary loss of license.

If you end up being placed under arrest at one of these roadblocks, it is crucial to hire an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer who is familiar with roadblocks and the relevant law. There are many ways to “beat” a roadblock OUI case. For example, police must adhere to very strict guidelines in setting up and administering sobriety checkpoints. For example, in Massachusetts, checkpoints must be in “problem areas.” In determining whether an area is a “problem area,” Courts look at the number of past arrests for OUI in the area, as well as the age of these OUI arrests. It is the burden of the prosecution to prove that the roadblock was “reasonable,” and if your attorney is able to show that guidelines were not adhered to by the police, your arrest may be thrown out and your case dismissed.

Additionally, unlike a motor vehicle stop, police at sobriety checkpoints do not have the opportunity to observe you driving. Therefore, some of the hallmarks of a typical OUI arrest — swerving, driving erratically, etc. — fail to exist in roadblock cases, make it harder for the prosecution to prove. Sobriety checkpoints also rely very heavily on Field Sobriety Tests, which can be incredibly inaccurate, and can easily be contested in court by an experienced defense lawyer.

If you have been arrested for OUI or DUI anywhere in Norfolk, Middlesex, or Suffolk Counties, contact Attorney Kate Hinman for immediate assistance.

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