When a police officer pulls you over for drinking and driving, he needs a reason to do so. If you don’t exhibit certain reckless driving behaviors, you may be able to avoid a DUI. However, DUI checkpoints are different. You can’t avoid them, and they can result in a DUI charge. That said, you do still have rights. Here’s a look at all of your rights during checkpoints.
What are DUI Checkpoint Requirements?
Some states (but not all) make it legal for police officers to have DUI checkpoints. At these areas, the police can legally stop a vehicle to determine if the driver deserves a DUI. However, the issue is more complicated than that. There are very specific laws in place to protect you. If an officer strays from those laws, he won’t have a case against you. Any BAC level or report about your sobriety could be suppressed, and your case dismissed.For this reason, you should understand your rights during a checkpoint.
For a checkpoint to be legal, it needs to meet a few requirements. First, it needs to be a location that a government official determined. It also needs to be reasonable to create and operate the checkpoint. Specifically, there needs to be a good reason for DUI checkpoints. Is there an issue with drinking and driving in the area? If so, that justifies the need for a checkpoint. Another important detail is that the checkpoint follows standard procedure.A checkpoint that ignored procedure could get you a free pass on your DUI.
There are other issues that a court considers important.
1. The procedural decisions
One police officer can’t talk to another and decide on the procedure for a checkpoint. DUI checkpoints need to have procedures made by law enforcement supervisors. To set up a checkpoint, officers need approval from a supervisor.
2. There are no random stops
A checkpoint cannot be random. If an officer stops cars at random, the checkpoint is illegal. He needs to use a neutral formula to pick a vehicle. Using that formula, he needs to apply it to every vehicle.
3. There are safety precautions
Every DUI checkpoint needs to be safe. If an officer does not adhere to safety precautions, the checkpoint may be invalid. This means that the checkpoint can’t be similar to a speed trap. Instead, it needs to be highly visible. Officers need good lighting, warning signs, and clear signals. The vehicles and officers at the checkpoint need to be easily identified as such. If an officer hides his identity, the checkpoint is invalid.
4. Officers use good judgement
The way officers ran a checkpoint needs to show good judgment on behalf of law enforcement. For example, a checkpoint should not occur for longer than necessary. If one checkpoint is in the same spot for days, it may be invalid. The officers need to be able to show that the length of time that they ran the checkpoint was within reason. Although this point is very subjective, it’s important to consider.
5. Your detention isn’t too lengthy
An officer cannot stop you at a DUI checkpoint and keep you there infinitely. In fact, he can only keep you there for a short time. An officer cannot hold you any longer than he needs to. At the checkpoint, the officer is responsible for a minimal detention.
6. An announcement
All DUI checkpoints should come with an announcement. Before officers start using DUI checkpoints, they need to make a public announcement about their plans.
7. The checkpoint is only for DUIs
Police officers cannot use a checkpoint to identify issues other than DUIs. For a checkpoint to be valid, the officer needs to identify it as a specific DUI checkpoint.
Other Rights at DUI Checkpoints
While your DUI checkpoint needs to be up to standards, there are other rights that you have at the checkpoint. Those are the same rights that every individual has during any type of DUI stop. First, you have the right to refuse to answer any incriminating questions. You don’t need to tell an officer how much you had to drink. If you want to decline to answer, that’s within your rights.
You also have the right to refuse a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer. Although some states have implied consent laws, you can always refuse a breathalyzer. There might be legal penalties for your refusal. However, it may be better to face those penalties than to take the breathalyzer. Submitting to a BAC test gives officers strong evidence against you in court.
Another right that you have comes into play if an officer arrests you. If he places you under arrest, he needs to read you your Miranda rights. If he fails to do so, he can hurt his case against you.
Finally, you have the right to a lawyer. If your DUI checkpoint goes poorly, a lawyer can help you get out of trouble. He can tell you if anyone violated your rights.