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What should a motorist do when stopped for an OUI?

Conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol can have serious consequences for Bostonians. An OUI defense often depends on what happened at the police stop.

If stopped by police, motorists should give their license and registration to the officer. A driver does not have to submit to a field sobriety test, breathalyzer or blood test. This may make it more difficult for the prosecution to prove an OUI case at trial. But, a refusal is likely to lead to an OUI arrest.

Police testimony usually includes their observations on whether the driver had red glassy eyes, was unsteady on their feet, a strong odor of alcohol and whether the driver's speech was slurred and thick. They will usually ask the driver to perform three sobriety tests such as reciting the alphabet, the nine-step walk-and-turn test and standing on foot and counting. Other tests may include walking a straight line, the finger-to-nose test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

Field sobriety tests have ben criticized for measuring physical dexterity instead of sobriety. Motorists who are at least 50 pounds overweight, wearing high heels or suffering a leg injury cannot pass these tests even if they are sober. Passing these tests have also been difficult for sober drivers who are not overweight or suffering an injury.

Defense attorneys debate whether a driver should take the breathalyzer. Some argue that there are no problems taking the test if the motorist had one or two drinks. However, many factors, such as body makeup height, weight, health condition and what the driver ate, could affect how quickly the body processes alcohol and skew alcohol measurements.

A driver will likely be released from OUI charges if their breathalyzer reading is below 0.05. A 0.05 - 0.07 reading does not lead to an inference of intoxication but may be evidence that the driver drank. An accurate reading of at least 0.08 percent is fairly conclusive evidence that the driver was impaired.

Refusal of a breathalyzer test will cause the license suspension for 180 days for the first offense. Police will take a license for up to 30 days if the driver had a test result of at least 0.8 percent.

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