DUI (Driving Under the Influence) checkpoints are common throughout the United States, so it is important that you know and protect your rights in these situations. Individuals are often unaware of their rights and are therefore unable to protect themselves at DUI checkpoints. Although driving under the influence is never condoned, you are encouraged to familiarize yourself with the law, so you can protect yourself in these circumstances. The first step of protecting yourself is learning your DUI checkpoint rights.
DUI Checkpoints: Know your Rights
Don’t Dodge DUI Checkpoints
DUI checkpoints exist to protect citizens from being harmed by other drivers operating vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Because of this, officers of the law have the right to conduct sobriety checkpoints that DO NOT interfere with the flow of traffic. Once you enter a checkpoint, it is sound reasoning to be compliant. It is advisable to not dodge these stops, as this behavior gives an officer probable cause to search you and your vehicle.
Unless an officer has probable cause — a reason to believe you are involved in suspicious, illegal activity — or you consent to the search, they do not have the right to search your vehicle or person. However, be warned that at these stops you will be asked to roll down your window, making yourself visible. At this point, anything the officer sees or smells that causes suspicion can give them probable cause to search you or your car. Needless to say, it is in your best interest to not raise suspicion during DUI checkpoints.
During these checkpoints you are not legally required to answer questions or admit you have broken the law. You should, however, be prepared to exercise your rights. Simply tell the officers “I am not answering questions, I want my lawyer present. I refuse to participate in any sobriety tests, without first conferring with my lawyer.” Relaying this information to law enforcement makes it clear that you are prepared to cooperate, but only with a lawyer present.
Sobriety Field Tests
As a driver, you reserve the right to refuse sobriety field tests and a portable handheld breathalyzer test (PBT) without consequences. Upon refusing to agree to these tests, be aware that you may be giving the police probable cause and can then be taken into custody. If you are arrested, refusal to take a breath test can result in a one-year revocation of your driver’s license. After you are in custody and you fail to consent to a breath test, officers can acquire a search warrant, granting them permission to draw your blood for further investigation.
Right to Leave Checkpoints
If you have given the police no probable cause, you are free to continue on your way. If you feel that the police are prolonging your temporary detainment, politely ask the officer if you are under arrest. If not, ask when you are free to leave the checkpoint.
If you are placed under arrest and taken into custody, avoid self incrimination and exercise your Miranda Rights. Once you have made this clear, reiterate that you wish to consult a lawyer before having any more discussions with the police.
DUI checkpoints exist to protect motorists, not to harm them. In the event that you find yourself about to be arrested, practicing your rights is encouraged. The easiest way to protect yourself is to know your right. If you are taken into custody, contact an attorney immediately.