Cory Madera is a Criminal, Administrative and Civil Litigation Attorney at Ryan Faenza Cataldo LLC

You are driving back home after a pleasant dinner with your spouse.  You had consumed a couple glasses of wine along with dinner.  All of a sudden you see blue lights glimmering behind you and suddenly realize a police officer is ordering you to pull over your vehicle.  After the officer approaches and asks for your license and registration, he asks if you have been drinking.  He then asks you to step out of the car to perform a series of “field sobriety” tests.

What are your rights?  Are you required to do everything a police officer asks? Here’s what you should know:

Being stopped and questioned for a suspicion of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol can be a nerve wracking and frustrating experience, especially if you do not know your rights under the law.  In Massachusetts, evidence that one refused to perform “field sobriety” tests is not admissible against that person at a trial.

Similarly, when arrested and booked for a charge of OUI in Massachusetts, a person has the right under the Massachusetts state constitution to refuse the request to submit to a chemical breath test, and evidence of this refusal is also not admissible at a trial.  However, it is still important to note that upon a refusal of a chemical breath test, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended for a minimum of 180 days. (The Supreme Judicial Court has recently ruled that you do not have a right to consult with an attorney before making a decision on submitting to a chemical breath test.)  Additionally, during the booking process, a person has a right to request an independent examination from a physician of his or her choice, and the police must afford a reasonable opportunity to exercise that right.

Beyond this, it is important to remember not to panic and to remain calm throughout this whole process.  Being courteous and respectful to the officer can go a long way to dispelling any notion that you might be intoxicated.  Further, you have the absolute right to refuse to answer any questions regarding the incident, including, for example, whether you have consumed any alcohol.  While there is no law against simply drinking alcohol before driving a motor vehicle, anything you say can be used against you at a later trial.  The right to remain silent and consult an attorney are deeply rooted constitutional rights that remain with you at all times.

Operating under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense with many life-changing repercussions, including, but not limited to, heavy fines, the loss of a driver’s license and the potential of incarceration.  Knowing your rights under the law is extremely important when faced with such a situation.  As such, hiring an experienced attorney to deal with the often complicated and daunting process to help you navigate and protect these rights is ultimately a must for anyone.