If a Massachusetts police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop, he or she must have a reason. If the officer instructs you to exit your vehicle, you can assume the reason has to do with a suspected impairment, such as operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Suspicion is not grounds for a lawful arrest, however. Massachusetts police must establish probable cause to take you into custody for suspected DWI.
They typically use three field sobriety tests to establish probable cause. A traffic officer might ask you to perform one, two or all three of these tests. If you fail any, a lawful DWI arrest can take place.
Failing these DWI tests may result in an arrest
Each of these field sobriety tests require you to follow a series of simple instructions and perform specific tasks:
- Walk-and-turn test: You must walk a straight line by placing the heel of one foot at the toe of the other with every step while holding your arms out at shoulder length on each side.
- One-leg stance test: Execution of this test usually involves standing on one leg with arms in a relaxed position at your sides and head tilted upward while counting numbers or reciting the alphabet aloud, sometimes backward.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: This is a test that enables a police officer to observe your eyes as you track an object from left to right or vertically, without moving your head to check for erratic shaking of the eyeball before reaching your maximum peripheral vision point.
A traffic stop is stressful enough without adding the components of a sobriety test. The results of a field sobriety test can have a significant impact on your immediate future and, in some cases, on the rest of your life.
You do not have an obligation to take DWI field sobriety tests
If a Massachusetts police officer asks you take a DWI field sobriety test, you do not have to comply. You cannot receive a penalty for refusing. However, if you refuse, it doesn’t necessarily mean a DWI arrest will not occur. If an officer takes you into custody for suspected drunk driving, you’ll want to exhaust all available resources to defend your rights.
Navigating the Massachusetts criminal justice system can be complex and stressful. Relying on someone with experience, who can keep you informed and advocate on your behalf during proceedings, helps achieve the best possible outcome.