If you’ve been charged with a DUI after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, how the checkpoint was conducted may be something that you can use in your defense. The best way to prepare your defense is consulting with a defense attorney who will have full knowledge of the laws regarding DUI checkpoints and can determine if any of them weren’t followed during your arrest.
DUI checkpoints themselves aren’t unconstitutional, although there have been court cases challenging their legality. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that because of their benefits in terms of public safety and as deterrents to drunk driving, DUI checkpoints are not intrusive enough that they violate the Fourth Amendment. For the most part, the Supreme Court has left laws regarding these checkpoints up to each individual state to decide.
There are several DUI checkpoint laws in place common to all states that allow them. There must be clear warning signs indicating that there is a checkpoint ahead. If a checkpoint was set up without any sort of warning signs, your defense attorney can argue that it wasn’t set up correctly, and therefore your case should be dismissed. A police department must provide public notice in advance of setting up a DUI checkpoint. In court, the prosecution will need to provide proof of this public notice. Police officers can’t choose to stop cars randomly at a DUI checkpoint, instead they need a set system for stopping cars, such as stopping every third car that comes through the checkpoint. This is to avoid any instances of profiling. If a DUI checkpoint didn’t have a system like this in place, then your defense attorney can argue that you shouldn’t have been stopped in the first place.
When you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you have the same rights and protections that you would have at any other traffic stop. An officer still needs probable cause to request that you take a breathalyzer or to arrest you on suspicion of DUI. If your defense attorney can prove that there was not probable cause to request that you take a breathalyzer or arrest you, then your case may be dismissed. It can be difficult to prove that an officer didn’t have probable cause, since it often comes down to your word versus the word of the officer. However, if your stop was recorded on video, either by your own dash camera or an officer’s, that may provide evidence that supports your defense.
What if you turned another direction away from the DUI checkpoint and the police pulled you over, which lead to your DUI charge? This is a common situation, as officers are closely watching cars as they approach the checkpoint and often pull over cars that turn away at the last second. Simply turning away from a checkpoint isn’t a traffic violation though. As long as you don’t break any traffic laws when you turn off, such as making a U-turn in the middle of the road, the police don’t have the right to pull you over. If an officer pulled you over when you hadn’t broken any traffic laws, then your defense attorney can again argue that you should not have been stopped in the first place, meaning the case against you should be dismissed.
A DUI is a serious charge that can result in expensive fines, suspension of your driver’s license and even jail time, in some cases. That’s why it’s crucial that you hire a skilled attorney to investigate the factors that led to your arrest, including the DUI checkpoint and the evidence that the officers found to suspect you of driving impaired, and then prepare a suitable defense. Your attorney will have extensive knowledge of DUI checkpoint procedures and can use that knowledge to determine if there were any issues with how the checkpoint was conducted. They can also see if the officer had probable cause to arrest you. When you need an effective defense, an attorney is your best option.