Nothing can ruin a workday or weekend quite like seeing a patrol car’s flashing lights in your rear view mirror, bringing on the realization that a Massachusetts police officer is pulling you over in a traffic stop. In situations like this, it’s not uncommon for various thoughts to begin scrolling through your mind, such as whether or not you remembered to fix that broken tail light, what speed you were traveling when you first noticed the lights and whether the officer will simply issue a warning, then release you.

Sometimes, that’s the way it goes. Then again, if the situation doesn’t unfold the way you expected, not only might your day be ruined, your entire future could change on a dime. If the police officer asks you if you’ve been drinking, the next words out of your mouth and anything you say or do after that can impact the ultimate outcome of your situation. In fact, your own behavior may lead to your arrest.

Your rights regarding field sobriety and preliminary alcohol screening tests

There are several things you should know about field sobriety tests and preliminary alcohol screening tests before you speak or do anything during an OUI stop. Police often use field sobriety tests to determine if they have probable cause to arrest someone. Preliminary alcohol screening tests detect the presence of alcohol on your breath. The following information may be useful to you should you find yourself facing an officer’s request to take either type of test:

  • Many people confuse preliminary alcohol screening tests with Breathalyzer tests. It’s critical that you understand the difference! A law enforcement agent uses a mobile device to conduct a preliminary alcohol screening test. The most important thing to note regarding this preliminary screening is that you are not legally obligated to submit to the test.
  • When you obtained a valid driver’s license in Massachusetts, you agreed to take a Breathalyzer or chemical test when a police officer lawfully requests that you do so. Should you refuse, you risk administrative penalties that often include driver’s license suspension.
  • Implied consent laws do not pertain to field sobriety tests or preliminary alcohol screening tests. These tests are optional, and you do not risk any type of administrative penalty for refusal. However, that does not necessarily mean there will not be negative repercussions if you refuse to take a walk-and-turn test or a preliminary breath test on a mobile device. It’s always best to carefully weigh your options and make informed decisions that increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.
  • In addition to the walk-and-turn test, the other two most common field sobriety tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and the one-leg stance test. You can lawfully refuse to take any or all of these tests at the scene of a suspected OUI stop.

Understanding your rights is a key factor to avoiding conviction should the officer who pulled you over decide to arrest you. The more you know ahead of time regarding Massachusetts OUI laws, the better. It’s also a good idea to have defense support lined up if authorities later inform you that you are facing OUI charges.

Facing charges and incurring conviction are two very different things, and the former does not always lead to the latter. Building as strong a defense as possible is the best way to try to mitigate your circumstances if your ride home from work or a night out with friends turns into a major legal problem.