The constitutionality of
DUI checkpoints or "sobriety checkpoints" has been debated for years. In order
to stop your vehicle, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that
you committed a traffic violation, for example, that you ran a red light,
blew through a stop sign, or were speeding.
DUI checkpoints, that is not the case. Law enforcement will set up a checkpoint
(sobriety checkpoint) usually late at night through early morning hours
on a weekend in an area known for having a history of
DUI arrests and/or
accidents. As a standard rule, the police stop vehicles based on a predetermined
formula, such as every fourth vehicle.
Three common questions about DUI checkpoints:
- Can I refuse to stop at a DUI checkpoint?
- If I see a DUI checkpoint up ahead, can I turn and avoid it?
- Can I refuse to answer the officer's questions at a DUI checkpoint?
1. Can you refuse to stop?
Provided that the DUI checkpoint is legal, the answer to the first question
is "no" – you cannot refuse to stop at a DUI checkpoint.
If you’re passing through a checkpoint and an officer stops your
vehicle for questioning, you must comply and stop your vehicle. Running
through the checkpoint could result in serious penalties.
2. Can you turn around to avoid the checkpoint?
By law, police must inform the public ahead of time when and where DUI
checkpoints will occur. It can be extremely risky to turn and avoid a
DUI checkpoint if you see one up ahead. In fact, if police see you evading
the checkpoint, they can pursue your vehicle and stop you.
So, the answer to the second question would be "no" – you
should not turn and avoid a checkpoint if you see one. However, you can
do research ahead of time and find out when/where checkpoints will be
held so you can avoid them this way.
Other than researching ahead of time to avoid taking routes with checkpoints
on them, there is really no way to evade a DUI checkpoint. This makes
knowing your rights all the more important. By law, police cannot search
you or your vehicle unless they have probable cause to do so, or you give
them verbal consent.
You are not required to consent to a search or take any type of field sobriety
test prior to a lawful arrest. That being said, there is a degree to which
you still need to answer the officer's questions.
Coming across as rude to the officer does nothing but aggravate the situation.
What happens at most checkpoints is that the officer will ask you to stop
your vehicle and roll down your window so they can communicate with you.
Once your window is down, the officer will proceed to ask you questions
such as, "Have you been drinking?" You have the right to refuse
these types of questions because you have the right to avoid incriminating yourself.
3. Can I refuse to answer the officer’s questions?
To answer the third question,
yes, you can refuse to answer the officer's questions at a DUI checkpoint
to an extent. At a legal sobriety checkpoint, law enforcement officials have the right
to question you to ascertain if you might be intoxicated or under the
influence of drugs.
You have the right to refuse consent to a search and you have the right
to avoid incriminating yourself, but it would probably be wise to politely
answer any necessary questions the officer asks you.
If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint,
contact an Orange County DUI attorney at the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry,
Inc. for a