DUI checkpoints are roadblocks set up by local authorities for the primary purpose of nabbing intoxicated drivers. They are generally set up at night, since most drinking at bars and restaurants occurs in the evening, along roads where police feel that they are more apt to catch impaired drivers.
In metropolitan areas, the checkpoints are commonly found at entrances to major highways or interstates since checkpoints are prohibited on freeways for safety reasons. Authorities are required to submit advance notice to the public that a DUI checkpoint will be set up at a certain time and place, though they may be permitted to move locations.
Federal law permits DUI checkpoints though a number of states have held them unconstitutional under their own constitutions, including Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
If you are concerned about coming upon a DUI checkpoint, the first thing to do is not to drink and drive at any time, or at least be certain that you are not impaired if you have had a drink or two by either waiting for at least an hour after your last drink before driving (so long as you have not had more than two) and being sure you have a valid driver’s license, current registration and insurance in your car. Of course, you can always allow someone else to drive. Many major cities now have rideshare, such as Uber or Lyft, where you can readily secure a car and have someone else drive you to and from bars and restaurants.
However, if you are driving, are there ways to avoid a DUI checkpoint and not arouse the suspicion of authorities at these roadblocks? The following are some tips for how to dodge a DUI checkpoint or what to do if you are detained:
- Check online to see if a DUI checkpoint has been set up the night you are out. Police are required to post locations and times where they will be looking for impaired drivers. There is also an app called Wayze for driving directions and traffic conditions where users can alert drivers of DUI checkpoints ahead.
- Avoid major roads and seek out secondary roadways such as back streets or residential roads where checkpoints are unlikely to be found.
- Do not stay out late. Many of these DUI checkpoints start operating later at night when revelers and other drinkers are returning home.
- Can you turn around and go back to avoid the checkpoint? It is very possible that officers are looking for such maneuvers though some courts have been very strict about officers who chase down such motorists since no law is being broken and no probable cause exists to stop and question the drivers. Police, though, are aware of this and may well point to some conduct by you, such as speeding, unsafe lane change, equipment violation, swerving or other unsafe driving behavior that allows them to detain you.
- If you are suddenly behind a group of cars and cars are behind you, it is possible you have no choice but to proceed. Police, though, are not checking every vehicle and are only permitted to stop and question cars in a systematic way that is not random. It is very possible that your chances of being stopped and questioned are minimal since police are only stopping every third or fourth car.
- Be prepared to show your valid driver’s license, registration and insurance by having these readily available. Fumbling to find them delays your stop and can arouse suspicion.
- You are under no obligation to say or do anything other than present identifying information and car information. If an officer asks you if you have been drinking, you can choose to not answer at all or you may choose to deny it. Saying as little as possible is advised since the officer can say that your speech was slurred. If the officer asks you to step out of your car and to perform sobriety or coordination tests, you have no legal obligation to do so. You may also refuse to take a PBT or portable breath test and not be subject to any penalties. By not giving the officer any reason to believe you have been drinking or are under the influence, the officer may not request that you take a breath test at the police station or van that often is present with a regular breath testing device since there is no probable cause to believe you are under the influence. Should the officer ask you to take a breath test and you refuse, you will have to challenge the revocation of your driver’s license in a separate administrative hearing if you want your regular license returned. Promptly have an attorney do this for you as you usually have no more than 10 days after the officer takes your license to formally request a hearing.
- If you are stopped and arrested at a DUI checkpoint, promptly contact a DUI attorney to closely examine the facts of your case including determining whether law enforcement officials followed the proper protocol in setting up the roadblock, in conducting it and if there was probable cause to arrest you. In many of these cases, authorities did not follow the law or cannot point to evidence sufficient enough to have charged you with a DUI in the first place.
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