DUI checkpoints are a common occurrence during holidays and events where law enforcement will expect a lot of drinking and celebrating. While these checkpoints can be a hassle and many may even question the legality, it’s important to know that you still have rights during these checks and there are rules that the police must follow to be in compliance with the laws. Here’s an overview of how it all works.
Checkpoints must be announced and law enforcement has to be consistent
In order for a checkpoint to be considered legal, law enforcement has to announce these checkpoints ahead of time and where they will be. On big holidays such as the Fourth of July or Cinco de Mayo, you can expect checkpoints to be happening all throughout the city. Police will usually shut down some lanes of traffic so that cars essentially queue up within one or two lanes and the police must be consistent in how they do the checks. This means they are not allowed to simply pick and choose whom they want to check but it could be something more like every third car will be stopped or everyone in the line must provide a license and registration as well as submit to a breathalyzer test. During these checks, they are looking for reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence and they have more ability to detain than in normal circumstances but it still has to be done in a way that shows that they are not targeting any particular group over another.
You can be detained or arrested for more than just a DUI
When these checks are happening, the police often cite or arrest people for other things such as driving with an open alcoholic container, possession of illegal substances or even failure to wear a seatbelt. If someone is stopped during these checks and fails to comply, the driver could be detained and made to go through a series of tests to see whether they are shown as able to operate a vehicle. While this may seem unlawful, it is the difference between detainment and arrest. The police are able to detain someone if there is enough suspicion that they are breaking laws but they detain to officially test so that if any test is failed then there is enough reasonable doubt to make an arrest. If during these stops, there is suspicion of anything other than illegal activity occurring then law enforcement may pursue this even if it doesn’t have anything to do with driving itself. For example, if the driver is acting strange or they notice something during the check, they may ask to inspect the car or the person to see if there are any illegal substances or firearms. During this time, the driver can decline a search without a warrant but a detainment will all but be certain.
If possible you can avoid the checkpoint
If you see a checkpoint coming up and you simply don’t want to be hassled, if you are able to turn around or avoid the lane legally you are free to do so. If you are already in the line then it will be best to just go through it but if there is enough time and space to take a detour then you are well within your rights to avoid it.
To sum up, if you have anxiety over checkpoints or you just don’t want to have to go through the whole process after a fun night out, it’s important to just remember to not only drink responsibly and only operate a vehicle when you are sure you are able to just to cover your bases but also avoid busy roads on major holidays, especially at night. You can check to see if any checkpoints are announced ahead of time and if you see one coming and can safely detour, you have every right to do so.