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Articles Posted in DUI Roadblocks

The Massachusetts Appeals Court decided the case of Commonwealth v. Emerton.  In this case, the defendant was arrested at an OUI Roadblock on Soldiers Field Road in Brighton and the case was heard in the Brighton District Court.  Soldiers Field road is an area where the State police have been using for years to conduct roadblocks.  Under Commonwealth v. Trumble, roadblocks are permitted under Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights if the following questions are satisfied:  

  1. the selection of the cars to be stopped must not be arbitrary; 
  2. safety must be assured 

What happens if you are arrested at an OUI roadblock? In this Blog, I will explain the three things you need to know to confront the charge.

First, understand that your first court appearance will be for arraignment. This is not a date that the court expects you to resolve the case, but a date for you to be notified of the charge and you will receive another court date for a pretrial conference.

Second, many OUI Roadblocks are winnable at trial. With no evidence of erratic driving, but in fact evidence of safe driving that may assist you in your defense, the Government is at a substantial disadvantage in prosecuting the case against you.

Roadblocks were a regular sight throughout Massachusetts over the holiday weekend – and they will continue to be through the end of the year.madridtrafficcop.jpg

Massachusetts State Police reported that over the Thanksgiving weekend –Friday and Saturday evenings in particular — the agency mounted an aggressive series of saturation patrols and checkpoints throughout the Commonwealth.

Canton OUI lawyers understand there were 21 OUI arrests issued at that one location alone, and another 350 citations were issued by roving patrols on routes 195 and 24.

The officers who were patrolling in that area reportedly arrested an additional 13 drivers for DUI, as well as eight other arrests made for offenses not related to impaired driving.

Some of those offenses included operating vehicles at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. There were even a handful who were allegedly traveling faster than 100 miles per hour. One was traveling 125 miles per hour, according to troopers.

One allegedly intoxicated driver was hurt in a head-on collision Friday evening. We don’t know if anyone else was hurt, but he was allegedly driving in the wrong direction.

Troopers were quoted by local media in Canton and in Boston as saying they plan to be out again this coming weekend with another planned sobriety checkpoint, and we can likely expect several more through the end of the year.

What’s important for motorists to understand is that an arrest is not a conviction. And even if you had consumed alcohol or some other substance before you got behind the wheel, the case is not a slam dunk for prosecutors. Here’s why:

During a Massachusetts roadblock, officers don’t have the benefit of observing your driving. They can’t say you were being erratic or reckless – because you have been funneled into a line along with all the other motorists. There is no probable cause for your stop.

As a result of this, these checkpoints tend to rely heavily on field sobriety test results, which are notoriously unscientific and inaccurate. Cases involving drug use are also more difficult to prove. That’s because drugs can’t be measured in a standard, alcohol breathalyzer test, and substances tend to have varied effects on people.

And finally, roadblocks must adhere to very strict rules, or risk running afoul of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. When agencies fail to follow these guidelines to the letter, resultant arrests may not stand up in court. For example, officers have to determine ahead of time what strategy they will use to stop cars. They can’t simply do it at random. If they do end up pulling over cars at random, your attorney can argue that it’s a form of unreasonable search and seizure.

Given all of this, simply pleading guilty – without the advice of an experienced attorney – shouldn’t even be an option. Many drunk driving arrests result in not guilty verdicts, and this is never truer than when dealing with charges stemming from a law enforcement roadblock or sobriety checkpoint in Massachusetts.
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At least six more OUI arrests in Massachusetts have occurred along Route 24 since authorities announced increased enforcement in the wake of a string of serious and fatal traffic accidents. Motorists can expect DUI roadblocks and other drunk driving enforcement measures through the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

The Boston Herald reported the arrests over the weekend raise to 33 the number of drunk driving arrests in Southern Massachusetts since the increased enforcement began a month ago. 1243146_asphalt_series__3.jpg

As we reported recently on our Massachusetts DUI Attorney Blog, authorities increased enforcement after more than 630 crashes claimed 11 lives and injured countless others last year. That averages out to more than two crashes a day.

The Express-Times reports rising gas prices are not expected to impact Labor Day travel. AAA reports prices are up about 40 cents since July 1, though that’s still 22 cents a gallon lower than the peak price in April. Gas is expected to average $3.75 a gallon nationwide and more than 85 percent of travelers are expected to drive to their destination. The Boston Globe reports some 33 million travelers will hit the nation’s roads.

Labor Day is the last of the trio of summer holidays (Memorial Day and Fourth of July), that see the most travel, the most arrests for drunk driving, and the highest number of serious and fatal traffic accidents.

When law enforcement targets an area for drunk driving enforcement, or conducts increased enforcement periods around travel holidays, a number of consequences may result.

-Officers on the lookout for drunk drivers, typically find them. No surprise there. But the predisposition to making a stop or initiating a DUI arrest may give rise to an arrest even though the evidence would be insufficient to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt if brought to trial. Increased enforcement means that police officer may arrest individuals who drank responsibly but simply could not perform balance and coordination test requested by the officer.

-Authorities may not conduct sobriety checkpoints or law enforcement roadblocks in accordance with the law. In fact, arrests in the wake of such stops typically provide more avenues of challenge for an experienced Brockton OUI attorney.

-Auxiliary, volunteer or part-time personnel may be put on active road duty. These officers may lack proper training and recency of experience, which can give rise to a host of legal challenges.

-Motorists may be unfairly targeted leaving concerts, venues or events.

Most motorists understand drunk driving is no longer a minor offense. However, those charged are also likely to have little experience with the criminal justice system. As such, they may fail to understand the seriousness of their situation. Job loss, jail time and lengthy driver’s license suspensions are all common results of a drunk driving conviction. And, financially, the cost of a drunk driving conviction nationwide can approach $20,000, counting skyrocketing insurance premiums, court costs, fines, supervision fees and other expenditures.

For repeat offenders, or for those involved in an accident, the consequences can be even more serious.

-OUI Serious Bodily Injury is punishable by up to 2.5 years behind bars and a mandatory two-year suspension of your driving rights.

-OUI Motor Vehicle Homicide is punishable by up to 15 years behind bars and a 15-year loss of your driver’s license.

Of course, your best option is to designate a driver, take public transportation, or find a sober ride home this weekend. But if you do end up under arrest, exercise your right to remain silent and contact an experienced defense lawyer in Massachusetts as soon as possible.
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Fleeing a Lawrence DUI roadblock has resulted in assault charges and complications for one man’s Massachusetts DUI defense team – not to mention it nearly got him killed.beerpour.jpg

Lawrence DUI defense lawyers understand that sobriety checkpoints are intimidating. While we have long challenged their legality and effectiveness, the fact is, for now they are legal and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. However, there are solid defenses that an experienced Lawrence DUI lawyer can mount to weaken the credibility of the state’s case.

Additionally, cases involving Massachusetts DUI roadblocks are often tough for prosecutors anyway. That’s because when you’re stopped at a checkpoint, officers often have no proof that you were driving erratically. Plus, these operations rely a great deal on field sobriety tests. These are non-scientific and highly subjective measures by which law enforcement tries to prove a Lawrence DUI. Such “evidence” may not stand up in court.

Halloween is approaching, as we can tell from the crisp weather, the black and orange decorations and the costume advertisements that seem to pop up this time of year.

And while it’s primarily a holiday for children to go door-to-door and try to get as much candy as they can, let’s face it, it’s a holiday for adults, too. During the weekend there will be parties where friends get together with outrageous costumes to try to impress each other and there likely will be alcohol.
The key here is to enjoy yourself, but do it responsibly. It’s quite likely that police throughout Massachusetts will employ OUI roadblocks as a way to trap drunk drivers. This can lead to an arrest for drunk driving charges in Massachusetts this Halloween weekend.

If this happens, the first move should be to contact an experienced Massachusetts DUI defense lawyer. Getting an attorney involved as quickly as possible can only benefit you. The longer a defendant waits, the more an attorney has to play catch up to get apprised of the facts and be prepared for trial.

When officers pull drivers over, they must have what’s called probable cause. This is true in any situation. They must have a reason to pull over a vehicle. Some typical examples of reasons are if the driver was speeding, swerving, improperly changed lanes or ran a stop sign.

Probable cause is required so that officers can’t simply pull over a vehicle for no reason and try to search it. The probable cause for the stop can be challenged in a OUI case.

After the initial stop is made, the officer will use his or her training to make observations about the driver that could lead them to believe the driver is operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. What they typically rely on are things like slurred speech, glassy or bloodshot eyes and the inability to have a coherent conversation.

That is the key moment that determines whether the officer is simply going to decide whether or not to give a ticket for speeding and whether he or she is going to pursue a DUI investigation.

If it’s the latter, the officer will usually ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and take field sobriety tests and/or a breath test. Refusing to take a breath test automatically results in a driver’s license suspension. However, it will also deny the state a key piece of evidence to use against you at trial.

Field sobriety testing is when an officer asks the driver to take nine steps and turn around to determine their balance, stand on one leg and follow an object from side to side.

All of these can be challenged as well, depending on whether they were conducted properly, whether video from the officer’s cruiser contradicts the observations on the police report, and whether other factors, such as the person’s physical ailments or the weather could have affected their ability to perform.

This Halloween, enjoy your time with your friends and pick out a good costume. Drink responsibly so that you don’t give the police any reason to interfere with your life. If you find yourself arrested, don’t panic, call an experienced Massachusetts DUI defense lawyer, who will defend your rights.
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The Record in New Jersey is reporting that a police chief has come under fire for earning $30,000 in overtime in two years for DUI enforcement operations.

As the Massachusetts DUI Attorney Blog recently reported, OUI roadblocks have little value in actually catching drunk drivers. In fact, police view the purpose as a way to keep drunken driving in the minds of drivers. Yet, they cost tens of thousands of dollars — provided by state and federal grants typically — to operate. 1174747_by_a_beer.jpg

And a big chunk of that money goes to pay police officers overtime so they can stand around and watch passing cars. Police officers are just like any other worker when they are working a job. They want it to go by quickly and they want to get paid.

When officers set up operations to target OUI in Taunton or elsewhere in Massachusetts, they are looking for common traffic violations, such as speeding, swerving, improper lane change, stopping and starting or other ways to initiate a traffic stop. During a checkpoint, no such probable cause is necessary.

When a driver is stopped by officers, they should remain calm and answer the questions politely. If you believe you are being investigated for OUI, don’t make any statements and tell them you wish to speak with a Taunton OUI lawyer immediately. Everyone has a right to not say anything if they are suspected of a crime.

According to the news article, the police chief in Elmwood Park New Jersey earned about $30,000 in overtime that payroll records show was paid out for drunken-driving operations.

Between Jan. 1, 2010 and Oct. 6, the chief got $29,436 on top of his $205,000 annual salary. Officials are investigating whether the chief was entitled to get that pay and if other department heads also got overtime pay.

The newspaper reports that the chief’s contract has no provision for overtime pay, while other police officers’ contracts clearly outline when they should be paid overtime and at what rate.

The chief told city council recently that he supervised OUI posts, making sure roadblocks were in the proper place and that procedures were followed. These roadblocks are typically covered by state or federal grants. Yet, police chiefs and other officials typically are salaried and can’t earn overtime pay.

While city officials are investigating, it seems on the surface like a bad deal for taxpayers. A chief of a town of 19,000 with a small force of only 37 gets $200,000 per year. And on top of that, he’s bringing in thousands in overtime?

And his excuse is that he had to supervise OUI roadblocks, which have little value anyway?

OUI roadblocks are typically set up in an area near bars or where patrons would drink and then later drive. Officers will usually set up barriers to funnel traffic so they can stop each vehicle and question each driver.

Their goal is to see if people are intoxicated — or might (in the opinion of the officer) be intoxicated. Some people get pulled over and others just get to drive through and there typically is no reason why some drivers are put through this process and others get to go by. The decision is made by officers working the post.

In most situations, very few drivers are actually arrested. Most pass through and go on their way, yet police departments nationwide are spending millions of dollars on these operations with few results.
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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.
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A Massachusetts OUI roadblock conducted in Quincy was upheld as Constitutional by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the case of Commonwealth v. Murphy. The DUI lawyer in Murphy argued that the roadblock was unconstitutional under Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because it gave the officer unchecked discretion to order a driver from the follow of traffic and into the sobriety checkpoint where further inquiry into the drivers ability to operate a motor vehicle will be conducted.

In the case of Commonwealth v. McGeoghegan, 389 Mass. 137 (1983), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that sobriety checkpoints are reasonable under the Fourth Amendment and Article 14, as long as the selection of motor vehicles to be stopped is not arbitrary, safety is assured, motorists’ inconvenience minimized, and assurance must be given that the procedure is being conducted pursuant to a plan devised by law enforcement supervisory personnel. The United States Supreme Court held that DUI roadblocks are permissible under the federal constitution in Michigan Dep’t of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990).

In Murphy, the trial judge found that the State police protocol and guidelines along with the instructions from the Major did not provide neutral criteria by which to direct cars from the follow of traffic. Accordingly, the judge found that the Quincy roadblock was contrary to the Massachusetts DUI roadblock case law and therefore a violation of Article 14 of the State Constitution.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, reversed the trial judge, holding that although there is some potential for abuse by officers, the requirement that an officer have reasonable suspicion to direct a driver from the flow of traffic is sufficient to provide object criteria to satisfy Article 14 of the State Constitution.

The court suggested that it would require the officers to greet each vehicle the same as set forth in the roadblock plan. In the Murphy case, the officer was instructed to make a brief and courteous statement to the operator of the motor vehicle, such as Good Evening, this is a State Police Sobriety checkpoint, we are checking all operators for sobriety. If the officer observes any articulable sign of possible intoxication, impairment or contraband, then further inquiry should be made at the designated screening area. The Court held that the guidelines used by the State police in the Quincy area where less intrusive than the guidelines upheld in prior cases that allowed inquiry into alcohol consumption if signs of impairments, glassy eyes, odor of alcohol and slurred speech were present.

The Murphy case supports DUI lawyers raising motions to suppress challenging the reasonable suspicion of ordering the driver from the flow of traffic and the propriety of questioning regarding alcohol consumption, depending on the language of the roadblock plan. The SJC should have followed the lead of the trial judge in Quincy and required supervisory officers to provide more detailed and objective criteria that must be followed before directing someone from the flow of traffic. Because a Massachusetts OUI charge is a crime of opinion that someone is impaired, the Constitutional protections of being free from unreasonable searches and seizures should require the State police to set forth specific criteria to guide an officers discretion. One officer may feel that a mere odor of alcohol is enough; another may feel odor should be combined with other signs of impairment. The trial justice was clearly correct in recognizing the potential for officers to make arbitrary decisions as to who to direct from the flow of traffic. Issues regarding roadblocks will continue to confront trial judges trying to balance current case law against constitutional requirements.
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