The Massachusetts State Police announced that troopers will be conducting a DUI / OUI Sobriety Checkpoint at “an undisclosed location” in Bristol County on the evening of December 12, 2014. Bristol County includes the towns of Dartmouth; Easton; Mansfield; North Attleborough; Norton; Raynham; Rehoboth; Seekonk; Swansea; and Westport, et.al.
What are your rights when it comes to a OUI / DUI roadblock or, as the police like to call them, ‘sobriety checkpoints’? Under Massachusetts law, the police are entitled to conduct drunk driving roadblocks, but they must abide by certain rules and procedures…
First and foremost, Massachusetts law mandates that the DUI roadblock must be pursuant to a written procedure or plan; and the selection of the vehicles pulled over must not be arbitrary.
Anytime you are pulled over, even for a brief period of time, it is considered a warrantless seizure that implicates your constitutional rights. OUI roadblocks are permissible under the law, so long as they are conducted pursuant to a plan and are not arbitrary, because they balance the public interest in reducing alcohol related incidents against your constitutional rights.
However, the police conducting the drunk driving roadblock must do so according to a devised plan. This is because it is illegal for police to target which vehicles they stop. For example, if the police have fixed checkpoints but stop cars at their whim, or if the officers have any kind of discretion of which cars are stopped, then the OUI checkpoint is not constitutional. The sobriety checkpoints must be conducted in a manner of operation from standard, neutral guidelines that don’t permit the officers any discretion in selection which vehicles are stopped. They should outline, for example, that every third vehicle is stopped.
Even if you are pulled over at a OUI checkpoint, that doesn’t mean the police can just stick a breathalyzer in your face. At this point, you can only be asked for a ‘secondary screening’ if the officer has reasonable suspicion based on ‘articulable facts’ that you may be operating under the influence. Motorists can be subjected to a further screening after the initial stop only if the screening officers observe “articulable signs of possible intoxication.”
What might be “articulable signs of possible intoxication” that might warrant a further screening? Well, those observations may include if the police officers observe the operator to fail to properly navigate the vehicle during the checkpoint or failure to follow directions; observes blood shot eyes; slurred speech; difficulty producing identification; or observes an alcoholic container in the vehicle.
Even if you are arrested for a DUI / OUI after having been stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, you and your attorney should carefully review the entirety of the procedure and whether it was done by the law and your constitutional rights were not violated.