Over the weekend of May 2 and 3, law enforcement officers increased efforts to catch individuals suspected of operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol in Bristol County. The Massachusetts State Police held roadblocks, also commonly referred to as a sobriety checkpoint, to stop cars on a public road over the course of several hours. Though the police department stated that the roadblock’s main purpose was to educate residents of Bristol County regarding OUI enforcement, their goal was certainly to arrest as many individuals as possible on suspicion of OUI. The arrested drivers would then likely face charges and a criminal case.
OUI cases that stem from a DUI roadblock must be handled by a defense attorney who understands the legal requirements for roadblock traffic stops. Roadblocks have long been a controversial way to detect drunk drivers due to the high potential for violations by police of the drivers’ constitutional rights. Arrests that are not constitutionally permissible should be challenged and charges dismissed. OUI defense lawyer Edward Molari has challenged the validity of roadblocks in and around the Boston area on behalf of his clients.
Common issues with roadblocks
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure, which includes police detention. Generally speaking, police must have reasonable suspicion that you have violated a law in order to conduct a traffic stop, since a stop qualifies as a detention. Roadblocks usually entail stopping vehicles without any specific suspicion that a particular motorist has committed a crime since suspicion often does not arise until the police interact with a driver.
In order for a roadblock to be valid under the law, it must generally meet the following requirements:
Roadblocks should be planned by supervising officers in advance with specifications for which vehicles will be stopped
Safety of motorists should be assured
Officers must not arbitrarily select vehicles to stop
Officers must not exercise discretion in selecting vehicles to stop
Officers must have reasonable suspicion to further detain a driver
Officers must not unreasonably inconvenience motorists
On too many occasions, even though a roadblock is planned and announced in advance, law enforcement officers take it upon themselves to decide who should be stopped in violation of the requirements. Officers also may keep a certain driver stopped for an extended period of time even in the absence of evidence that they are violating the law. When an officer makes an arrest because of impermissible roadblock tactics, an experienced defense attorney should challenge the arrest and the constitutionality of the roadblock.
Police in Massachusetts make mistakes, as evidenced by a recent reexamination of OUI cases that involved possibly defective or inaccurate breathalyzer devices. If you are arrested during a roadblock, police should be held accountable for any possible missteps they took in the course of the roadblock.
Edward Molari is a highly skilled OUI and criminal defense lawyer in Massachusetts who knows how to challenge the validity of roadblocks and OUI arrests. Anyone arrested for OUI should contact our office at 617-942-1532 as soon as possible to find out how we can help you.