OUI-DUI Roadblocks in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the police are permitted to conduct OUI-DUI roadblocks in order to stop and detect impaired drivers. However, if you are stopped at a roadblock and arrested for OUI-DUI, you may be able to get the evidence the police obtained and the case dismissed by filing a motion to suppress attacking the police conduct in executing the roadblock.

Ordinarily, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion to seize an individual under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitutional and under Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. When the police stop an individual at a roadblock, a motorist is being seized without individualized suspicion that the person is committing a crime.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that a roadblock seizure to detect drunk drivers is reasonable if the police comply with the strict standards set forth in a case known as Commonwealth v. McGeoghegan. First, the selection of vehicles to stop must not be done arbitrarily. Accordingly, the police must stop cars in some sequence; usually this is done through stopping every car. Second, motorist safety and inconvenience must be secured by implementation of a plan devised by law enforcement supervisory personnel, regarding where vehicles will be stopped and where further screening will take place. Third, the area selected by law enforcement must be an area where there has been a high number of OUI-DUI arrests or accidents. Finally, though not required, the SJC has indicated that advanced public notice of the date, but not the precise location, of the roadblock will decrease its subjective impact on motorists and support the Constitutional reasonableness of the roadblock.

In attacking the validity of a roadblock, your attorney should obtain the roadblock plan through discovery that will reveal how the police intended to set up the roadblock, stop cars and the data that justified the site selection. Along with attacking the procedure for how the roadblock was conducting, an additional basis for attacking the stop is that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to order the motorist from the follow of traffic. The initial greeting officer must have reasonable suspicion to suspect a motorist is operating under the influence before the motorist can be removed from the flow of traffic.

If you are stopped at a roadblock, it is important to have an experienced attorney review the discovery to determine if the police complied with proper procedure in establishing the roadblock and if there was a basis for you to be ordered from the flow of traffic. A motion to suppress challenging these elements, if successful, should result in the dismissal of your case.