Any OUI investigation begins with an officer pulling over an individual’s vehicle. An officer cannot pull over a driver without a valid reason however. Under the United States Constitution we are provided certain rights including protections against being arbitrarily stopped. An officer must have ‘reasonable suspicion’ that an illegal activity occurred before requesting you pull over and stop your car. It is important to know that an officer can pull you over for ‘reasonable suspicion’ that any crime has been committed and is not restricted to the crime of OUI. For example, an officer can pull you over for failing to fully stop at a stop sign. After the stop, if the officer then has reason to believe that you are driving while intoxicated he or she can then proceed with the investigation into OUI. There are numerous reasons why an officer may stop you.
An obvious reason for being pulled over by an officer is speeding. Of course, if an officer observes you speeding, he or she has reasonable suspicion of commission of a crime (the traffic crime of driving at excessive speeds) and the stop would be considered legal.
Erratic Driving or Swerving
Alcohol has noticeable effects on your body and your ability to drive including slowed reaction time, poor muscle coordination, and effects on judgment and memory. All of these factors can result in erratic or poor driving including swerving and weaving between lanes (which is in and of itself a valid reason to stop you, as it is a separate violation).
Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign or Red Light
Failing to stop when required to do so by law, as with a stop sign or red light, is a dangerous way to get pulled over. As the effects of alcohol impede your judgment and reaction time, failure to stop timely may be the result.
Failure to Signal Turn or Lane Change
Massachusetts law provides that whenever you are making a turn or movement that would affect any other vehicle, you must give a visible signal to other drivers. Failure to do so can result in fines as well as being pulled over with reasonable suspicion that you had committed a violation.
An officer can pull you over for the seemingly benign reason of expired tags. Typically, such a violation would mean a citation and fine. If, however, after pulling you over for an expired tag, the officer has reason to suspect you’ve been drinking and driving, the investigation into OUI will begin. Expired tags would provide the officer with reasonable suspicion for the initial stop.
A Boston Area Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
There are many reasons for an officer to pull you over and proceed with an OUI investigation. He or she must have a valid reason for the stop however. If there was not a valid reason for the stop, you may have a legal defense to the OUI charge against you. Talk with a lawyer in the OUI Attorneys network if you have questions about your initial stop and subsequent drunk driving charge.