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You’re not obligated to take a roadside OUI test

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2023 | OUI/DWI |

Whether it’s happening for the first time in your life or has occurred multiple times in the past, a traffic stop is typically an unsettling experience. You might have a lot of points against your license already, so an officer pulling you over for speeding might be the straw to break the camel’s back, so to speak, meaning that it could cause you to have enough points to activate a license revocation. If a Massachusetts police officer suspects OUI, you might think you’re obligated to take a roadside test, but you’re not. 

Roadside OUI tests are known as “preliminary alcohol screenings,” which a police officer can use to establish probable cause to make an arrest. Police must have reasonable cause to stop you in traffic, then establish additional probable cause to take you into custody for suspected OUI. Roadside tests often include a breath test, as well as one or more field sobriety tests. If someone has told you that you’ll face arrest for refusing to take roadside tests, the information is not correct. 

The police cannot arrest you for refusing to take an OUI test during a traffic stop 

Keep in mind that a chemical breathalyzer test administered after an OUI arrest is different from a preliminary alcohol screening breath test given on the roadside during a traffic stop. When you signed your Massachusetts driver’s license, you agreed to implied consent laws, meaning that you must take a chemical test upon request following an OUI arrest or incur an automatic driver’s license suspension.  

However, you do not have an obligation to comply with requests to take roadside tests during a traffic stop when the police have not arrested you. If you agree to take such tests, and the officer issues a failing score, it constitutes probable cause to take you into police custody for suspected drunk driving. There are no legal or administrative penalties for refusing to take roadside sobriety tests.  

What’s the difference between a roadside breath test and a chemical test? 

The device Massachusetts police officers use for roadside breath tests during a traffic stop merely detects the presence of alcohol on your breath. The chemical breathalyzer test used after an OUI arrest can measure the percentage of alcohol in your bloodstream. 

The roadside test can produce a false positive, such as if you ingested a cough syrup containing alcohol as an ingredient before the traffic stop. The machine might detect the alcohol on your breath, and the police officer can then arrest you for drunk driving, even if you did not consume any alcoholic beverages. Understanding the difference between sobriety testing devices and knowing where to seek support to help you defend your rights are key factors that may help mitigate circumstances if you are arrested for OUI in Massachusetts.