In the majority of cases, a police officer must have probable cause to stop your vehicle – e.g., you are speeding and swerving, so the officer has cause to believe you are intoxicated. At DUI checkpoints in Massachusetts, however, police officers are allowed to stop vehicles in order to check for any suspicious or driving under the influence activity. Because these checkpoints are outside of the norm of traditional traffic stops, your rights and responsibilities during one may be hard to understand. Here is what you need to know:
You Are Required to Stop Your Vehicle
Like it or not, sobriety checkpoints are constitutional in Massachusetts, as determined in Commonwealth vs. Shields. This means that during a DUI checkpoint, you are required to stop your vehicle and allow for a police officer to detain you for a reasonable amount of time, as well as interview you.
You Have the Right to Refuse a Search of Your Vehicle
While you do have the responsibility to pull over and consent to stopping for an officer, you do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle. In fact, a police officer can only search your vehicle if they have probable cause to do so –e.g. they notice an open bottle of alcohol in the passenger’s seat, or see drug paraphernalia. If a police officer asks to search your car, you should politely refuse.
You Have the Right to Refuse to Submit to Breath, Blood, or Field Sobriety Testing
You also have the right to refuse to breath, blood, or field sobriety testing, although refusal of the first two may have consequences, as this is a violation of the state of Massachusetts’ implied consent laws. While you can refuse testing, you can be arrested if the police officer believes that you are intoxicated past the legal limit (and has probable cause to support this belief), and thereby a danger to yourself and others on the road.
You Have the Right to Not Be Unreasonably Detained
When your vehicle is first stopped, you will be asked a couple of questions by police officers. From there, the officer should allow your car to pass through if there is no probable cause for detaining you longer – such as the scent of alcohol on your breath or slurred speech. If the officer continues to detain you, you have the right to ask if you are free to go. If the officer says no, you have the right to ask if you are under arrest.
You Have the Right to Contact an Attorney
If you are arrested on DUI charges in Massachusetts, contact an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Working with an attorney is the best way to improve your case’s outcome, and possibility have any evidence against you dismissed (for example, if you were detained for an unreasonable amount of time without probable cause, charges may be dropped). At The Law Offices of Paul R. Moraski, our talented criminal defense lawyer is ready to get to work on your case. For a free case consultation that is 100 percent confidential, call Paul R. Moraski today at 978-397-0011.