Just like the name implies, a DUI checkpoint is a roadblock set up by law enforcement. The purpose of it is to find drivers who are driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. These stops can be scary, especially if you have had a few drinks before getting behind the wheel. Below I will guide and walk you through what you should do if you encounter a DUI checkpoint.
What are the signs of intoxication an officer of the law might check?
Odor of Alcohol
If an officer pulls you over and smells alcohol coming from your vehicle, he or she will likely investigate further. You may have a drink in your hand or by holding a cold beer. Regardless, if the officer smells alcohol, it is going to cause him or her to become suspicious that you are driving under the influence.
While bloodshot eyes do not necessarily mean that you are drunk, they do indicate that something may be wrong with you. Those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol often have bloodshot eyes. The officer may inquire about whether or not you have used drugs or consumed any alcohol.
If an officer is walking by your car, he or she may notice open containers of alcohol in your vehicle. Even if those open containers are empty, it will alert the officer to investigate further. He or she may ask if you have been drinking and then proceed to administer field sobriety tests and possibly a breathalyzer test as well.
What can you do?
The first thing to do is remain calm. When you see police cars and flashing lights, it can be overwhelming to think about getting pulled over. But, there are things you can do and keep in mind if you encounter a DUI checkpoint while driving under the influence.
Remember Your Rights
First, remember that when you are pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, officers are required to inform you of your rights. If they fail to read your Miranda rights, or if they ask questions that violate your rights, any evidence they obtain can be thrown out in court.
You Have the Right to an Attorney
If you are pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, or if you get stopped for suspected drunk driving elsewhere, you have the right to an attorney. Politely decline to answer any questions until your attorney arrives. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
You Do Not Have to Take Field Sobriety Tests
The three field sobriety tests most commonly administered by law enforcement officers include:
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
The officer will ask you to follow a stimulus, such as a flashlight or a pen, with your eyes without moving your head. As you do this, the officer will look for a specific type of involuntary eye movement that can indicate impairment.
Walk and Turn
You’ll be instructed to walk heel-to-toe along a straight line for several steps, turn around, and walk back in the same manner. This is designed to test your balance and ability to perform divided attention tasks. An officer might also ask you to count aloud while performing the test.
One Leg Stand
You’ll be asked to stand on one leg while counting aloud. Officers will look for indicators of impairment such as swaying, using arms for balance, or hopping in order to maintain balance.
Politely and directly answer the officer’s questions
Although it is advisable not to volunteer information, such as admitting that you were drinking alcohol or taking drugs before driving, the officer has the right to ask questions during the stop, and it is within your best interest to politely and directly answer these questions. If the officer asks if you have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, this is your opportunity to say “no” and explain why your eyes appear bloodshot.
Do not make an illegal U-turn or run through a checkpoint
It’s a good idea to avoid driving while under the influence, but if you find yourself at a DUI checkpoint and you’re under the influence, there are some things you can do to prevent being arrested.
First of all, do not run through a checkpoint or make an illegal U-turn to avoid a checkpoint. These actions will almost always result in your arrest.
If approaching a checkpoint, slow down and turn on your hazard lights. Roll down your passenger window and place both hands on the steering wheel. If it’s dark outside, turn on your interior lights. Do not reach for anything inside of your car until asked by an officer.
Do not volunteer for a search
The officer may ask if he/she can search your car. You should say no unless the officer has probable cause (reasonable grounds) to believe that there is something illegal in your car (such as evidence of drug dealing).
Probable cause usually means that there is some other reason for the officer to believe that your car contains drugs, alcohol, or other illegal items, such as the smell of marijuana coming from your car or erratic driving that might indicate that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If an officer finds something illegal in your car during a legal search, it can be used against you, even if it was found during an illegal search.
The bottom line is that DUI checkpoints are designed to catch drunk drivers and keep the roads safe. This can be a scary situation, but it’s important to remain calm and focus on getting through the checkpoint safely. And if you happen to encounter a police checkpoint and are under the influence, do what you have to do to get safely home before risking it again.