Getting stopped by a police officer is one of the worst fears a motorist can have, especially if they’ve been drinking alcohol, regardless of whether they consumed enough to be considered “under the influence.”

The best way to avoid an OUI charge in Massachusetts, of course, is never to drink and drive. However, various circumstances often lead people to get behind the wheel after a couple of beers or glasses of wine. If an officer stops you, your actions in the aftermath are vital to your defense.

Five things to remember after a traffic stop

Once a driver sees the flashing police lights in their rearview mirror, fear often takes over. While being stopped is never going to be an enjoyable experience, it’s in your best interest to follow these steps:

  • Pull over: As quickly and safely as possible, pull off to the side of the road and stop your vehicle. Shut off the ignition and place your hands upon the steering wheel so the officer can plainly see them.
  • Be respectful: Be polite to the officer when he or she asks to see your license and registration. Arguing or showing disrespect will only make things worse and could result in additional charges.
  • Avoid self-incrimination: While it’s OK to follow an officer’s requests, you are under no obligation to answer their questions. The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent.
  • Avoid the impulse for honesty: Being candid with an officer by saying you’ve “only” had one drink is not helpful to your defense. Likewise, don’t answer questions or offer information over whether you’ve been drinking, where you’ve been or who you have been with.
  • Stay calm after arrest: If the officer believes you are under the influence and says you failed field sobriety or breath tests, you’ll likely be taken into custody. Try to keep a cool head and respectfully tell them you won’t answer any questions until you can talk to an attorney.

A knowledgeable defense can deter serious repercussions

You can help your own defense by keeping a clear head and taking notes of your interactions with the officer. People often fail field sobriety tests due to medical conditions or the prescriptions they’re taking. Breathalyzers are often inaccurate due to flawed machines or those incorrectly calibrated.

Your defense attorney will meticulously scour the arrest report and the test results to look for ways to lessen charges and penalties. In some cases, charges are dismissed. The bottom line is that an experienced lawyer will aggressively fight to help you avoid long-term OUI consequences.