You might be driving down the road like any other night, when around the bend you see that the street is full of lights. Even if you haven’t had anything to drink, it can still prove to be a nerve-racking experience.

Stopping drivers at checkpoints is legal in Massachusetts if police meet specific guidelines. Then it’s likely up to you to know your rights and exercise them if you come across a police checkpoint.

Handle it the right way

Police have to announce where and when roadblocks will be set up, and how they will select vehicles to check. If they’re picking every fourth vehicle that comes through, and your number is up, there are few important things you should remember during the process:

  • Pull over: You usually need to stop at a checkpoint if the police signal to you, whether they have specific evidence of impairment or not. Officers are generally allowed to keep you at the checkpoint and speak with you, but they can’t hold you indefinitely. You may be free to leave if they can’t establish probable cause in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Right to refuse a search: Just because officers have the right to detain you for a short time, doesn’t give them the right to search your car. You don’t need to provide consent, but they probably won’t need it if they can establish probable cause. Open containers or the smell of alcohol could be enough to give them permission.
  • Right to refuse testing: You don’t have to submit to testing, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. Passing on a breathalyzer or blood test could still lead to your arrest if the attending officer has reason to believe you’re over the legal limit. Your refusal could also be grounds to suspend your license.

Know your rights when it comes to a police roadblock, and you’ll likely have stronger footing throughout the process.