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If you’re an active driver, you should know that you may eventually encounter a sobriety or DUI checkpoint. These routine traffic stops may require you to stop and undergo an alcohol screening administered by law enforcement officials.
There are many myths surrounding sobriety checkpoints, but it’s essential to understand the facts to protect your rights and ensure you’re fulfilling your duty as a responsible driver. Our guide below will list the top ten things you need to know about sobriety checkpoints and answer questions such as, Are DUI checkpoints legal? and, How do DUI checkpoints work?
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1. Sobriety Checkpoints Keep People Safer
The purpose of checkpoints for DUIs is to enable law enforcement officials to monitor drivers and perform sobriety tests when they’re concerned a driver may be under the influence.
At sobriety checkpoints, officers are not required to have reasonable suspicion to stop vehicles. Cars are stopped because they are traveling through a predetermined location. This allows officers to remove dangerous drivers from the road quickly. Recent studies have shown that DUI checks can reduce alcohol-related crashes by 20 percent.
2. Checkpoints Happen In Highly Trafficked Areas And Busy Driving Times
While checkpoints are set up at random intersections, they are usually unannounced and conducted in areas with a high traffic volume. Often, checkpoints are strategically performed at night and after midnight when drunk driving is more prevalent. This strategic placement and timing help officers ensure they are catching dangerous drivers with a high potential to cause accidents.
3. Checkpoints Must Be Pre-Determined
Although checkpoints may seem random to drivers, law enforcement officials are only permitted to run checkpoints at locations set up ahead of time and for a specific amount of time. This is to limit the inconvenience and intrusion of law-abiding drivers.
4. Checkpoints For DUIs Serve Multiple Purposes
The primary purpose of sobriety checkpoints is to screen drivers for intoxicated driving, but they also serve other purposes. Checkpoints allow officials to screen for:
- Roadway safety measures like working seatbelts and headlights
- Valid licenses and registrations
- Security measures, such as at a border location
Keeping your car up to date with all safety requirements is essential. Also, ensuring your license and registration are valid is vital to avoid getting in trouble at a checkpoint for DUI. This is recommended even if you drive sober.
5. Checkpoints Are Considered Legal, If Conducted Properly
Are DUI checkpoints legal? Under the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government, sobriety checkpoints are generally considered legal, but there are rules for how they must be conducted. To prevent unlawful searches, checkpoints are permitted only if they’re motivated by an “important governmental purpose,” which includes preventing and deterring intoxicated driving.
Sobriety checkpoints must be conducted in a neutral and non-arbitrary way. Cars must also be stopped in a nondiscriminatory manner, such as every car, every fifth car, or every tenth car.
6. Some States Do Not Allow Checkpoints For DUIs
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
7. You Can Refuse A DUI Test
You have the right to refuse to take a field sobriety or breathalyzer test at a checkpoint, but it’s essential to know that there may be consequences for doing so. Potential ramifications vary from state to state. If you end up being arrested for suspected driving under the influence after refusing a sobriety test at a checkpoint, you will not be able to refuse testing at the police station.
8. What Happens At A DUI Check?
At the checkpoint, an officer will ask the driver to roll down their window, and ask to see their license, registration, and insurance. They may ask questions about your day (or evening) and assess you for signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech or the smell of alcohol in the car. Assuming you do not appear intoxicated, you will be allowed to resume driving.
If an officer has safety concerns after interacting with you, they will likely ask you to exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests to further assess your sobriety. If you pass, you will be allowed to leave. If you fail, you will most likely be asked to take a breathalyzer or brought to the police station for a blood or urine test.
9. You Can Turn Away From Sobriety Checkpoints
If you’re in a hurry, you may wish to avoid the checkpoint to save time. You are technically allowed to drive away if you do not commit illegal driving maneuvers, like making an illegal U-turn or driving the wrong way. Still, it is essential to remember that DUI checks are intended to keep people safe, and there are precautions to limit the inconvenience and time investment for sober drivers. The safest thing to do may be to go through the checkpoint.
10. Charges From Sobriety Checkpoints Can Be Dropped If Stops Aren’t Conducted Properly
Checkpoints must meet certain regulations to be legal. If a sobriety checkpoint is found to be unconstitutional—for example, if officers are stopping cars in a discriminatory manner, or they have stayed longer at the checkpoint stop than scheduled—the charges coming from the stops may be dropped.
Charged With A DUI?
DUIs are costly, stressful, and can negatively impact your life. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, have specific questions about the legality of a sobriety stop, or want to know your legal options for sobriety checkpoints, you may want to consult a criminal defense attorney. They will review the specifics of your case and provide experienced legal counsel. Get a free legal evaluation today.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.