A DUI or sobriety checkpoint is a checkpoint set up by the police to stop cars driving through and look for impaired drivers. When a driver is stopped at a DUI checkpoint, the officer checks for any signs of impairment, such as slurring of their words or the smell of alcohol on their breath, and runs their driver’s license and registration. If the officer has probable cause to believe a driver is impaired, they can conduct a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer, which can lead to the driver’s arrest.
There have been challenges to these checkpoints in court, alleging that they violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that DUI checkpoints do not meet the criteria of an unreasonable search, but has also allowed individual states to determine on their own whether or not to allow these checkpoints. Most states have chosen to allow them.
However, DUI checkpoints do need to meet several specific requirements. There must visible warnings of the checkpoint, including lights and signs, and the amount of time that each motorist is detained must be kept to a minimum. The police department also needs to provide advance notice of the DUI checkpoint to minimize its intrusiveness and improve deterrence of driving under the influence. The officers conducting the DUI checkpoint need to use a set formula to determine which cars to stop, and they can’t simply do it at random, as that could lead to profiling. For example, the officers could stop every car that comes through the checkpoint, or they could stop every fifth car. It’s rare for officers to stop every car because of the time it would take to do so.
DUI checkpoints are most common in the late evening hours and on holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend, as police set them up at a time when people often drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The purpose of these checkpoints is two-fold: to arrest drivers who are under the influence, reducing the possibility of an accident, and to deter people from driving under the influence. That’s part of the reason why police departments must provide public notice of their upcoming DUI checkpoints.
Keep in mind that all your same constitutional protections apply when you are at a DUI checkpoint. You don’t need to answer any of the police officer’s questions, and you don’t need to consent to any searches. While some drivers refuse to hand over their license and registration due to the questionable legality of DUI checkpoints, it’s generally to provide those. One method that some drivers have chosen to use is placing their licenses and registrations in a plastic bag and hanging that bag outside their window with a note explaining that they will not be lowering their window. This is completely legal, as drivers are under no obligation to lower their windows for a police officer at a DUI checkpoint.
While many drivers decide to make a U-turn or find another way to evade DUI checkpoints, remember that police do watch cars carefully as they approach the roadblock. Choosing not to drive through a DUI checkpoint is perfectly legal, and that alone won’t give police a valid reason to pull you over. If you break any traffic laws to evade the checkpoint, such as the aforementioned U-turn, then police will have a valid reason to pull you over.
When stopped at a DUI checkpoint, it’s to provide the documents that the police ask for and avoid answering any questions. In the event that the police detain you to conduct a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer, you will have to do what they ask. Refusing a breathalyzer will result in the same penalty as driving under the influence.
If you’re arrested at a DUI checkpoint, don’t confess to anything or make any sort of plea deal. Instead, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. The police may not have had probable cause to detain you, in which case your lawyer will be able to argue that to the court for your defense.
First time DUI arrest lawyers
DUI arrests are common, and, throughout the country, countless people plead guilty or are found guilty every day. However, many people arrested for DUI often end up striking a lenient plea bargain or have charges dropped as well, and some who take the case to trial end up being found not guilty. Making mistakes after being arrested can significantly lessen the odds of finding a more favorable outcome. Here are some of the top mistakes people make after being arrested for DUI or other similar charges.
Refusing to Take a Breathalyzer
Laws vary between states, but many require those with a driving license to take a breathalyzer test if demanded by a police officer. While drivers typically have a right to refuse one, doing so can result in harsh penalties. In most cases, it’s to take the test and find a means to contest the results before the case reaches trial or in front of the court court. Study state laws to learn how to respond to a request for taking a breathalyzer test.
Talking to the Police More than Necessary
Once a police officer decides to make an arrest, there’s no way to talk yourself out of it. Those who are arrested have a right to remain silent, and police officers cannot compel drivers to make any statements. In many cases, officers try to get those arrested to admit guilt, which makes these cases more difficult to defend. Furthermore, police officers might try to find evidence that the driver is guilty of other crimes, and it can be difficult to avoid traps while inebriated. Be respectful of police officers, but guard your right to remain silent to avoid small mistakes that can be costly at trial. When in the booking station or elsewhere, inform detectives that you’ll only speak once you have access to your lawyer.
Failing to Hire a Lawyer
Many people think DUI cases are simple, but there are many venues to get certain evidence dismissed. If a lawyer can show that a breathalyzer was administered incorrectly, for example, it might be inadmissible in court, making the prosecutor’s task nearly impossible. Information that leads to dropped evidence can be found in police reports, dashcam footage and in other evidence, but it takes experience to know where to look and what to look for. While hiring a lawyer might be expensive, failing to do so can be even more expensive.
Getting Arrested a Second Time
Those arrested for DUI will often encounter prosecutors and attorneys willing to cut a deal or even drop charges, especially when the person arrested has a lawyer. Getting arrested a second time, however, typically makes prosecutors far less likely to offer a lenient plea deal or drop charges. Those arrested twice have far less leverage than those arrested for the first time, and jail time might be inevitable in certain states. The easiest way to avoid a DUI is to only drive while sober, but this advice is even more important if you already have an arrest.
Not Investigating License Opportunities
Many states revoke the driving licenses of people arrested for DUI, even if they haven’t been convicted or plead guilty. However, many states also provide hardship waivers and other means for people to continue driving while the trial is pending. In the state of Florida, for example, those who sign up for DUI school can typically use a hardship license to continue driving for certain purposes, including school and work. One of the benefits of hiring a lawyer quickly is having a guide to help you through the process, which can mean the difference between keeping and losing your job. Those who have been arrested need to ensure they research relevant laws and ask lawyers about available options.
DUI arrests can be costly, and it’s important to act promptly if you’ve been arrested. There are often ways to avoid harsh penalties, and lawyers can sometimes get charges dismissed entirely. Be cautious if you’ve been arrested as small mistakes you make after being arrested can have severe consequences in the future.
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