Pulled Over by Police? Know Your Rights
If you are stopped by a police officer who suspects you of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OUI) in Massachusetts, it’s important to know your rights before making any choices. It’s not uncommon for people to behave in an extremely docile, overly compliant way during traffic stops – most of us have been conditioned that it is best to cooperate under any circumstances, without realizing that this can be to your own detriment.
Many people do not fully understand that some requests from officers are well within their rights to decline, while others legally require adherence. What do you do if an officer asks whether you’ve been drinking? How much information are you required to provide, and how do you avoid incriminating yourself? Read on to learn more.
Stopping Safely and Reducing Risk
First, when you see flashing lights behind you, do not panic. Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as you can. Turn off the vehicle, turn on the overhead light, open the window, and place your hands on the steering wheel. Passengers should ensure their hands are visible by placing them on the dashboard. Don’t make any sudden movements and remember that all parties have the right to remain silent. Passengers may ask if they are free to leave – if this is granted, they should do so silently.
Responding to Questioning
Over the course of a traffic stop, there are many questions that the officer may ask. If they request your license, registration, and proof of insurance, for example, you must provide these documents. Be sure to store them in a glove compartment or somewhere else where they are easily and quickly accessible; don’t waste time rooting through stacks of receipts and old napkins when time is of the essence.
If the officer asks you whether you’ve been drinking, be aware that your answer to this question can be incriminating. For this reason, you have the right to refuse to answer, which is the advisable course of action.
After this, the policeman may ask you to step outside of the vehicle. You do not have to exit and may choose to respectfully decline. It is well within your rights to remain inside your vehicle, unless you are placed under arrest. If the officer places you under arrest, you must comply.
Field Sobriety Tests and Breathalyzers
Once you’ve exited the vehicle, the officer may ask you to take field sobriety tests. In Massachusetts, you cannot be forced to take a field sobriety test. You have the right to decline an officer’s request and it is generally advisable to do so. Often, even those who have not consumed alcohol have difficulty completing these tasks due to the stress of the situation. Similarly, you are not required to take the preliminary breath test (PBT); while the result is inadmissible at trial, it can be cited as a reason for your arrest.
If you are placed under arrest for OUI and are taken back to the station, you will be asked to submit to a breathalyzer or chemical test (in the form of analysis of the blood or urine). You have the right to refuse these; however, in the state of Massachusetts, this refusal can result in suspension of your driving privileges. The amount of time suspended depends on how many times you have previously been arrested or convicted for OUI.
What to Do After OUI Arrest
If you are arrested under suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence, you have the right to an attorney. This should be your first course of action upon arrest. Don’t say anything, sign anything, or make any choices without legal counsel. There are many nuances of OUI legal defense in the state of Massachusetts, including independent testing of your samples and examination of the arrest itself.
Before you plead guilty, you should consult with a legal professional. Our Boston OUI attorneys will provide effective representation for both the administrative and criminal components of your charge. We work to minimize the consequences you face. To schedule a free consultation, call 617-758-8888 or contact us online.