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Rhode Island Legislator Charged with Drunk Driving, Possession of Marijuana, at Sobriety Checkpoint

A Rhode Island lawmaker has been charged with driving under the influence and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Connecticut, Channel 12 News reported.

A Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer has more ground upon which to challenge charges that result from a car stop at a sobriety checkpoint. These stops infringe upon your Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Massachusetts sobriety checkpoints and law enforcement roadblocks in Connecticut are permitted under state law, though law enforcement must obey strict rules regarding the checkpoint’s operation to ensure everyone is treated equally. The training of officers involved, the probable cause to request that you submit to field sobriety testing or a breathalyzer examination and the probable cause for any search of your vehicle or person are all issues a defense attorney may challenge in defending a client charged as a result of a DUI checkpoint.

Roadblocks in Rhode Island have been deemed unconstitutional and are not permitted under the state constitution.

House Minority Leader Robert Watson, R-East Greenwich-West Greenwich, was among those arrested Friday at a checkpoint in East Haven Connecticut. NBC 10 News reports Watson is expected to keep his leadership position despite the arrest after Republican House members voted unanimously to support him.

Watson denied failing the field sobriety tests and stated that he wished there were cameras. In many cases, a driver charged with DUI in Massachusetts will dispute the version of the police contained in the police report. Many motorists are upset when reading the police which often is inaccurate, exaggerates what occurred and distorts innocent activity to justify the arrest. According to the police report, the officer observed only three clues on the nine step walk and turn out of a total of eight clues. While the officer concluded Watson failed, his DUI lawyer will be able to use this test to show that he had normal balance, coordination and mental ability given the substantial number of things he did correct in performing the test.

The Providence Journal reported Watson was flagged over while driving his Ford Ranger. Police report that he smelled of alcohol and marijuana. A bag of suspected marijuana and a wood pipe were found upon a search of the vehicle.

A test of his blood-alcohol level at the station was .05, below the legal limit of .08. However, the presence of marijuana could complicate the case as prosecutors could argue he was driving under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol.

In Massachusetts, there is a presumption that a driver is not under the influence if a breathalyzer reading is .05 or below. If the breathalyzer reading is .06 or .07, the Commonwealth may still charge a motorist with DUI and will proceed under an impairment theory. Most cases of under .06 and .07 result in not guilty verdicts after a bench trial. However, when there is allegations of driving under the influence of drugs, the Commonwealth may charge OUI drugs in the alternative.

I would expect Watson to be found not guilty as the State does not have a particularly strong case for DUI drugs in this matter. If you are charged with drunk driving in Massachusetts, you can call me to discuss your case. I will be happy to review your police report and let you know my opinion of your case. You can reach me directly at 781-686-5924 or at 508-455-4755. I have offices located in Stoughton, Attleboro and Westborough for your convenience.

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