DUI checkpoints have been around for many years. Many people will look at these types of roadblocks as a way for law enforcement intimidating the public into forced behavior. In this case, preventing people from drinking and driving. While we obviously do not condone drinking and driving, we also do not want to see anyone wrongly detained or arrested for a crime they have not committed.
What is a DUI Checkpoint?
Technically, checkpoints are established to help protect citizens and deter people from a specific behavior. In this case, drinking and driving. There has been much scrutiny over the years as to the actual procedures for establishing a checkpoint (each state will have its own particular laws and guidelines). However, the good news for drivers is that each law enforcement agency must announce where and when checkpoints will be established. In essence, with a little research and some careful route planning, you should be able to avoid them altogether.
If, however, your travels make it impossible to avoid a local checkpoint, you should research local laws to know the exact rules of the local checkpoints. Some things to consider are:
- Police cannot automatically search your vehicle with no probable cause
- There must be some type of consistency in vehicles being stopped (such as every third car)
If law enforcement violates these basic principles, take note, as it may help your DUI attorney fight any charges filed against you because of the stop.
Answering Questions at a DUI Checkpoint
Officers are trained to ask drivers questions at DUI checkpoints that are not technically an interrogation. On the surface, these questions may seem innocent, but the officer is definitely trying to illicit a response that will give him or her a better idea as to whether or not you have been drinking. Some examples are:
- Have you been drinking tonight?
- Are you coming from dinner at a restaurant or party?
- Are you just coming back from or going to the game?
While the first question is obvious, many drivers will mistake the second and third question as idle chitchat. However, since some people will drink at a party, restaurant, or sporting event, a wrong answer to one of these questions could result in further investigation by the officer. In addition, the manner in which you answer these questions, meaning if you slur your words, could also give the officer reason enough to turn this checkpoint stop into a DUI violation.
The good news here is that you do not actually have to answer these questions. You can politely refuse to answer these questions because that is your legal right, regardless of the state. However, you should not do so in an aggressive or defensive manner, as it will put the officer on alert. Inform the officer you do not wish to answer any questions and inquire if you are free to go. If at this point you have not given the officer probable cause or shown any signs of intoxication, the officer has no legal right to detain you.