If you thought you noticed an increase in DUI checkpoints and patrols as the temperatures warmed up, you were right. More people go out during the warm summer nights, and police departments respond by cracking down on those who drive while under the influence. Given the increase in DUI arrests during the summer, you need to know your rights should you find yourself stopped at a checkpoint.
What is a DUI checkpoint?
A DUI checkpoint is a roadblock officers set up where they can randomly stop cars and make spot checks to see if drivers are intoxicated. Checkpoints are especially common in the late-night hours of the summer months when people may be coming home from parties and barbecues.
What are your rights?
Knowing your rights ahead of time can help you protect yourself later on. Officers don't have unilateral authority at checkpoints. Here's what they can do:
- Stop cars. Officers can legally construct DUI checkpoints and stop vehicles as long as they are random and not targeting any specific demographic.
- Ask questions. The officer may ask where you've been, where you're headed and whether you've had anything to drink. While you do not legally have to answer questions when not under arrest, it's usually in your best interests to comply.
- Administer a breath test. An officer can ask you to take a field sobriety test, but there's a catch: They must have some reason to suspect that you're driving under the influence. A cause for suspicion might be slurred speech, the smell of alcohol on your breath or an open container.
There are also laws governing what the police cannot do during a stop at a DUI checkpoint. The police cannot:
- Search your vehicle without consent or probable cause. You must give the OK for the officer to be able to legally search your car, except in cases where there is probable cause. However, an officer can seize anything that's in plain view without probable cause.
- Stop you from turning around. You don't have to go through a DUI checkpoint. As long as there is a legal means to do so, such as turning down a side street, you are free to choose another route that doesn't take your through the checkpoint.
However, keep in mind that any illegal actions, such as making a U-turn, can result in your arrest. If you're arrested or charged with a DUI after being stopped at a checkpoint, it's important to talk with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure you are aware of all of your defense options.