Know Your Rights if You Are Pulled Over for OUI in Massachusetts
How to respond when the police start asking questions
It's happened to almost everyone: You’re driving along and suddenly you see red and blue lights flashing behind you. You pull over, and the officer approaches your vehicle and asks for your license, registration, and proof of insurance...and you obey without question.
You were likely taught to be overly polite and as cooperative as possible when you are pulled over by the police. However, you should know that you're not obligated to comply with every request made during a traffic stop. It is especially important to know your rights if you are suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OUI).
Pop quiz: If you are pulled over, and the officer asks if you have been drinking, how should you respond? Many people think that they have to answer that question one way or another. Some decide to answer truthfully; others decide to downplay how much they have had to drink. But any answer that you give in that situation may be incriminating. So the best answer is no answer at all. Simply tell the officer that you are choosing not to answer that question.
The only information that you are required to provide is your license and proof of registration and insurance. You do not have to answer any other questions that the officer poses to you.
Now that you’ve made it clear that you don’t answer questions, what should you do if the officer asks you to step out of the vehicle? It is well within your right to stay safely inside your automobile UNLESS you are placed under arrest. While you can be firm in your refusal to get out of the car unless you are told you are under arrest, you should try be as polite and respectful as possible. If the officer tells you to get out of the car because you are under arrest, you should do so.
Once you are out of your car, if the officer asks you to take field sobriety tests, you have the right to refuse to take them. And you should exercise that right. Those tests are designed for you to fail, and it's more likely than not that the officer will say that you failed to perform them up to his/her standards, regardless of whether or not you have been drinking. It's also possible that the officer will ask you to take a Preliminary Breath Test (or "PBT") at the scene. You do NOT have to take that test. While a PBT result is inadmissible at trial, the officer may cite a result that's over the legal limit as providing probable cause to arrest you for OUI.
If you are placed under arrest for OUI and taken back to the station or barracks, you will be asked to submit to a breathalyzer or to a chemical (blood or urine) test. As with all of the other tests, you have a right to refuse a breath or chemical test. However, if you refuse, and this is your first offense for OUI, your driving privileges in Massachusetts will be suspended for 180 days. Unfortunately, the suspension will be even longer if you have previously been arrested or convicted for OUI.
If you are facing criminal charges, including charges that you were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, please contact James Gribouski or Darren Griffis at Glickman, Sugarman, Kneeland & Gribouski. Call (508) 756-6206 today for more information about how they can put their legal knowledge to work for you.
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