If you are pulled over and suspected of operating under the influence, the officer at the scene may ask you to do a breathalyzer test and/or complete a field sobriety test. Regardless of whether you are, in fact, under the influence, you may be confused or stressed about what these tests could mean for your particular situation. These tests are intended to assess your coordination, balance, and the ability to multitask, with the goal of ascertaining whether there is probable cause to place you under arrest and charge you with a crime.
It is possible that the officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test to determine your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). A portable breathalyzer test, often used at the roadside, is inadmissible as evidence against you. Instead, this is used as a threshold test, to contribute to the probable cause analysis. Contrarily, a breathalyzer test administered at the station is admissible as evidence and can be used against you. There are various requirements for maintenance, as governed by the Massachusetts Codes of Regulations, in addition to standardized procedures and observation periods that must be followed to set the foundation for a valid test. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, if you register a BAC of .08 or greater, you are considered under the influence. It is important to know that if you do decide to refuse a breathalyzer test, either at the scene or at the station, that refusal cannot be used as evidence against you.
Just because, in Massachusetts, refusing a breathalyzer test can’t be used as evidence against you, does not mean there are no potential consequences for this decision. When deciding whether to take a breathalyzer test, confusion typically arises around potential license suspensions. If you refuse the test, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will automatically impose a 6 month administrative suspension. If you choose to take and then “fail” the test, the administrative suspension period is only 30 days. This discrepancy often encourages individuals to take the breathalyzer test, despite the fact that taking the test could be against their best interest. While the administrative suspension is only 30 days, the test score becomes the most damning piece of evidence that will be introduced against you at trial. A guilty conviction remains on your criminal record permanently, and will trigger an additional license suspension at the time of conviction.
This is a weighty decision to make but you should be prepared, know your options, and know the different legal implications of those options. We strongly recommend consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are suspected of operating under the influence.
Vincent A. Tofani heads Parker Scheer’s Criminal Defense practice and has successfully represented hundreds of individuals charged with OUIs in courts throughout Massachusetts and has obtained “not guilty” verdicts in over 75% of the cases taken to trial. While every case involves unique facts and circumstances, attorney Tofani has the skill and the experience to provide you with the very best chance of obtaining a favorable result.
If you have any questions surrounding a charge of operating under the influence, call Vincent Tofani at 617- 241- 4244.