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Massachusetts OUI Lawyer explains drunk driving defenses based on police training

In this series of Blogs, I have attempted to describe all aspects of a Massachusetts drunk driving charge and how the case will be defended by a Massachusetts DUI lawyer. Prior blogs, have addressed the HGN test, nine step walk and turn, one leg stand test and nonstandard field sobriety tests. This post will address the driving factors and observations that the officer is looking for and how these can be used to form your defense. This is the final post in this series.

A critical part of defending your case will involve the reasons why the officer stopped your car. If there was no dangerous or erratic driving, you already have the framework for a strong defense of your case. The reason is that the purpose of the field sobriety tests is to determine your ability to drive safely and if there is no erratic driving than your driving itself provides part of the proof that you were not under the influence of alcohol.

What are some of the clues that a police officer looks for regarding the driving that will be used to demonstrate you were under the influence of alcohol:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations lists the driving clues that officer may find. I have attached a link to a police field sobriety testing training manual.

Of significance regarding this list, is that speeding is not a sign that a motorist is under the influence of alcohol.

Here are a list of the driving clues:

  • weaving
  • straddling a lane line
  • turning with a wide radius
  • drifting
  • almost striking a vehicle or object
  • stopping problems, too far, too short, or jerking
  • accelerating or decelerating rapidly
  • driving too slow
  • slow response to traffic signals

I generally break up the driving between the initial observations of the officer and the driving once the police officer puts on the blue lights. Police officers are trained to think of these two incidents as separate driving sequences.

The officer’s training when the blue lights go on is referred to as the stop sequence. The officer is taught to view this as an important point during the encounter to determine whether a motorist is under the influence of alcohol. The signal to stop divides a motorist’s attention between paying attention to the blue lights to stop and pulling over safely. The idea is that the signal to stop divides a driver’s attention. The field sobriety tests, like the nine step walk and turn and one leg stand are designed to achieve a similar purpose of dividing a driver’s attention. Even though the officer may claim you failed field sobriety tests, the driving itself is evidence of good mental ability and good coordination skills necessary for driving.

Accordingly, when a police report reads that a driver pulled over immediately after the blue lights go on, an effective cross examination by a Massachusetts DUI attorney will emphasize that this demonstrates that the motorist was not under the influence of alcohol. To listen to a further explanation of this defense, click here for a video explaining how this idea is used at trial.

Understanding the police training in detecting drunk drivers is essential to preparing a strong cross examination. I have been successful in defending Massachusetts DUI charges before judges and juries through confronting the officer with the details of his training; these details point out that factors demonstrating your sobriety, that the officer was trained to look for, were omitted from the police report and the officer’s trial testimony. You can discuss your case and get my evaluation of it by calling 508-455-4755 or 781-686-5924. You may also send an email through this website or directly at

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