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Can You Refuse a DUI Checkpoint?

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.

With 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 free consultation!