Commonwealth v. Lariviere: Stop Permissible Over State Lines

Can a police officer initiate a stop in another jurisdiction?

If you are operating a motor vehicle in Massachusetts, a police officer, in general, is unable to arrest you outside of his territorial jurisdiction unless the arrest can be classified as a citizen’s arrest. Although an officer may make a citizen’s arrest as a private citizen, this does not apply to operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI) because a private citizen is unable to make a citizen’s arrest for a misdemeanor. In Massachusetts, the charge of an OUI is classified as a misdemeanor unless it is a third or greater offense. Although police may not make a citizen’s arrest for OUI, they are permitted to stop a citizen outside of their jurisdiction and perform a limited investigatory stop as outlined in the recent case, Commonwealth v. Lariviere.

Commonwealth v. Lariviere involved a defendant who was driving on Route 1A in Seabrook, New Hampshire when he straddled the dotted white line dividing the two southbound lanes of the road. The defendant began drifting and weaving, causing the New Hampshire police officer who was patrolling that area at the time to activate his cruiser lights with the purpose of attempting to initiate a stop. The defendant did not immediately stop and continued driving. Once the defendant crossed over state lines into Salisbury, Massachusetts, the New Hampshire officer then activated his cruiser’s siren. The defendant came to a stop and the New Hampshire officer remained in his cruiser while he contacted the Salisbury Police Department to alert them of the stop. The New Hampshire officer did not have any interaction with the defendant.

An officer from the Salisbury Police Department arrived at the scene and interacted with the defendant. After interacting with the defendant, the Salisbury officer made the decision to place the defendant under arrest for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the stop with the argument that the New Hampshire police officer was out of his jurisdiction when he stopped the defendant. The Superior Court denied the defendant’s motion. The defendant appealed the Court’s decision and after review, the Appeals Court affirmed the Court’s denial of the motion.

In the defendant’s motion, the defendant argued that the New Hampshire officer conducted an improper citizen’s arrest of a misdemeanor. However, the Court found that the New Hampshire officer's actions in stopping the defendant and not interacting with him at all did not rise to the level of a citizen’s arrest. Commonwealth v. Ayre, 31 Mass. App. Ct. 17, 20-21 (1991). Therefore, the stop, in this case, was permissible although it crossed state lines. The New Hampshire officer conducted the stop properly by not interacting with the defendant and contacting the authoritative police department of that jurisdiction. It was a “reasonable investigatory stop by a citizen” and was made in order to protect the public’s safety. Commonwealth v. Limone, 460 Mass. 834, 840 (2011). Had the New Hampshire officer been more intrusive than he was, especially if he arrested the defendant, then his actions would not have been permissible since he was out of his jurisdiction by being in Massachusetts.

If you are charged with an OUI after being placed under citizen’s arrest, Commonwealth v. Lariviere implies that this charge could be improper and require dismissal. A private citizen is unable to make a citizen’s arrest for an OUI because it is a misdemeanor. Unless the private citizen has knowledge as to whether you have been previously convicted of an OUI, the citizen would be acting upon the belief that you are in the process of committing a misdemeanor crime of a first offense OUI. Therefore, in general, the citizen’s arrest would be improper. It is important to have your case evaluated by an experienced attorney who knows how to apply the law to your unique circumstances.

Call the Law Offices of Joseph D. Bernard at 413-731-9995 for a case evaluation, free of charge or obligation. Trust a Massachusetts OUI attorney to fight for your rights.