It’s been a topic of a heated debate for years. Are DUI checkpoints, also referred to sobriety checkpoints, Constitutional? To stop you while you are driving, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that you committed some traffic violation like running a red light. This is not the law with DUI checkpoints.
Why? Well, law enforcement will set up a DUI checkpoint. This checkpoint is typically done late at night or during early morning hours on weekends or holidays. The officers will pick vehicles to stop based on a formula that is predetermined. For example, every ninth vehicle will be stopped as traffic proceeds through the checkpoint.
After reading the above, you probably have three common questions many people have regarding DUI checkpoints like:
- Do I have the right to refuse to go through a DUI checkpoint?
- If I am approaching a DUI checkpoint, can I drive in the other direction to avoid it?
- Can I refuse to answer any of the officer’s questions while stopped at a DUI checkpoint?
Based on the DUI checkpoint being legal, here are the answers to the questions:
No to the first question. You cannot refuse to stop at a sobriety checkpoint. If you are driving through a DUI checkpoint and an officer stops your vehicle, you must comply. Stop your vehicle. You may incur serious legal penalties for driving through a DUI checkpoint.
The answer to the second question is it depends. Police must inform the general public about the sobriety checkpoint ahead of time. It’s the law. Police are required to tell you where and when the checkpoint will happen.
It’s extremely risky to drive away from a DUI checkpoint when you see one ahead. That’s why the answer is not definite. You can turn away without facing any legal trouble. However, there is often police posted away from the checkpoint. If the officer notices that you are evading the checkpoint, he or she may pursue you. Law enforcement may have the legal right to do that.
So if you want the answer to be yes, you may have to do a little research prior to driving. Find out where and when the checkpoints will be held. That way you can avoid having to go through one. Other than conducting research ahead of time, there is no way to avoid driving down streets with checkpoints.
Before moving on to the third question, it’s important to mention your legal rights:
- Generally speaking, a police officer cannot search you or your vehicle without probable cause. Probable cause involves having legal suspicion that you have broken the law. The only way they can search you or your vehicle without probable cause is with your consent. However, there are some exceptions involving wingspan and plain view after a lawful traffic stop.
- You do not have to consent to a search while you are at a checkpoint.
- You do not have to take any type of field sobriety tests prior to a legal arrest. This means that if a police officer asks you to take a field sobriety test, you can tell him or her no.
The answer to the third question is yes. You do have to still answer the officer’s questions—to a certain extent. However, if a police officer asks you questions about whether you’ve been drinking, the general rule is that you can refuse to answer that question based on the possibility of incriminating yourself. That being said, it is important to mention that an officer may end of arresting you if he or she determines that there is enough independent evidence that you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This can include your driving pattern, failure to follow directions, and physical observations including an odor of alcoholic beverage emitting from your mouth, bloodshot watery eyes, unsteady gait, etc.
Remember, any time you come across as condescending or rude, the officer will probably do one thing: aggravate the situation.
If you were arrested for DUI, contact Jonathan Franklin immediately to schedule your free consultation. He and his team will aggressively defend you in your matter.