One question that comes up for a Massachusetts OUI Lawyer is when can a police officer make an arrest outside of his jurisdiction. Whether a police officer had a basis to stop you under the Fourth Amendment is one of the first lines of defenses that is pursued in defending an OUI charge.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently answered the question of when and local police officer can pull and charge a driver over with an OUI outside his or her jurisdiction in Commonwealth v. Bartlett.
The defendant in Commonwealth v. Bartlett was facing his fifth OUI offense and was trying to suppress evidence citing that the officer pulled him over outside of his jurisdiction. The officer in this case was on patrol as a Merrimac police officer and crossed into the neighboring town of Amesbury during his shift. While returning to Merrimac, he witnesses defendant weaving and swerving. After defendant turned into a parking lot, the officer blocked the defendant and informed Amesbury police and then initiated a traffic stop. Unable to remove his license, blood shot eyes and a failing of the sobriety test led the defendant to receive an OUI. The Merrimac officer made the original stop while Amesbury police administered the field sobriety test.
The defendant rested his defense on the common law that states an officer may only conduct police powers in their jurisdictional limits. However, there is an exception to this as an officer is allowed to work outside their jurisdiction to the extent authorized by a statute. Here, there were two potential statutes. The first allows an officer to leave their jurisdiction when an officer requires backup in apprehending a suspect in order to keep the peace. Here, the Merrimac officer initiated the stop and no Amesbury officer requested backup so this did not work. However, here, there was an agreement between Amesbury and Merrimac that allowed full police powers for officers even outside their jurisdiction if it requires an immediate response for the good of public safety.
The SJC upheld that this stop was lawful. They ruled that because the defendant was driving in such a reckless manner, this required the officer to act immediately in order to protect public safety. Had the officer not acted immediately, it could have put the public in danger so it was authorized. Furthermore, had this agreement between the two police departments not been in existence, this stop would not have been warranted.
Police officers are authorized to make stops and arrests outside their jurisdiction, however this power is limited to when a statute authorizes it. If a police officer is outside of his jurisdiction and makes an arrest, this provides a Massachusetts OUI attorney the opportunity to create a defense the stop was unauthorized. In most situations, it will have to either be an emergency or there will have had to been a request for backup. If this is lacking, the evidence of the entire pull over can be suppressed and the charge will be thrown out.