The Massachusetts State Police rely heavily upon OUI sobriety checkpoints throughout the year, saying that they are an effective screening tool to keep drunk drivers off the road.
However, most Massachusetts OUI attorneys realize that these methods are not infallible, and just because troopers may make a high number of arrests doesn’t mean they will automatically become convictions. In fact, many OUI arrests made at sobriety checkpoints can be successfully challenged in court because the procedures to which these agencies need to adhere are strict, and there are many ways for them to slip up.
Still, somewhere between 70 and 80 checkpoints are set up each year in the state, according to the Taunton Gazette. These are used in conjunction with regular patrols, as well as saturation patrols, which are when officers are assigned to patrol a particular problem area or at a specific time in great numbers.
In determining where a checkpoint will be positioned, law enforcement will chart its crash data and areas that have a higher-than-average OUI arrest count.
But simply doing that is not enough to keep these operations legal.
To start, law enforcement agencies must publicize the fact that they will be having a checkpoint in advance. They don’t have to say where it will be, but they do have to let the public know when one will be held in the jurisdiction.
Once the checkpoint is set up, cars will be stopped at a fixed point, where drivers will be met by “greeters.” These are troopers that will engage the driver in a brief discussion. It is during time that the troopers will try to determine whether you are intoxicated. The key word here is “brief.” If there is evidence that the state police prolonged that initial conversation in order to continue to figure out whether the driver is drunk, there’s a good chance an OUI defense attorney will be able to successfully challenge resultant charges.
Also during this time, troopers will attempt to get you to admit that you’ve been drinking. They may word it in a way that is confusing or simply demand to know how much you’ve had to drink. Don’t fall for it.
From here, the stop can go one of two ways. Either you’ll be sent on your way, or if troopers believe they have enough reason to warrant further examination, you will be sent over to a marked area. If at this point there is any evidence of racial profiling or that you have been stopped and flagged for any other reason than suspected intoxication, there’s a good chance your attorney can fight any subsequent charges.
Once you are in the marked area, you will be met by other troopers who will talk to you, observe you – probably again try to get you to admit you’ve been drinking – and then ask you to undergo a field sobriety test. You do not have to submit to this test, but understand you will probably be arrested if you don’t. However, if you know you are intoxicated, it may be best not to give them additional evidence.
The problem with field sobriety tests is they are completely subjective and don’t meet the legal standard for proving someone is drunk. They are simply a tool that officers use, but when used collectively with other evidence, can be harmful to your case.
If from there officers determine you are intoxicated, you will be taken to a bus to be booked, processed and transported to the police station.
State police point to the fact that the legality of these operations has been repeatedly upheld in court. This is true, but the strict rules that law enforcement must abide by provide you with ample room to fight your arrest.
Call (508) 455-4755 in Attleboro or (781) 686-5924 in Stoughton. Free Consultation 24/7.
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State police say sobriety checkpoints are effective screening method, Dec. 2, 2012, By Christopher Nichols, Taunton Gazette
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