Getting stopped at a DUI checkpoint can be a frightening and unnerving experience. Such checkpoints are usually set up at night and they are especially common on Friday and Saturday nights. There are some rules of thumb—a few things that you should and should not do—to make your experience at a checkpoint pass without incident.
What Are Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint?
Knowing your rights before DUI checkpoint can help you protect them when the time arises. One of the most important guidelines that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has laid out regarding sobriety checkpoints is that they have to be publicized beforehand. Remember that you have rights, even when there is a sobriety checkpoint.
1. You Have The Right To Avoid a DUI Checkpoint
The short answer is yes, you do have the right to avoid a DUI checkpoint, so long as you obey all traffic laws while doing so. If you see a checkpoint ahead and decide you do not want to go through it, you can make a legal U-turn or turn down a street to avoid it. That is completely legal and the police don’t have a right to pull you over for doing this.
However, once you are already in the lane and about to go through a checkpoint, you are required to stop. Do not attempt to pass through without stopping, as law enforcement has the right to pull you over at this point. If you attempt to dodge a sobriety checkpoint and break a traffic law, law enforcement has the right to follow and pull you over.
2. Refusing a Field Sobriety Test
Technically, you do not have to undergo a field sobriety test. If an officer has told you to get out of your vehicle for one of these tests, you should advise him that your lawyer has advised you not to perform the test and respectfully decline.
If the officer has a suspicion that you may be under the influence of drugs, you could be required to submit to a chemical test, either a breath or blood test. Refusing a chemical test could result in you losing your license for a year, so you will need to comply with this test.
DUI Checkpoints: The Do’s
There are some steps you can take and guidelines you can follow to help ensure that your rights are protected.
When you are pulled over, roll down your window for the police officer. If they ask if you’ve been drinking, it’s your Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer this question. Let them know this in a polite and nonargumentative way. This will ensure that your defense later on is as strong as it can be.
Do call an attorney as soon as you are able. You are innocent until proven guilty, and an arrest does not amount to a conviction. Your attorney will test the soundness of your case by examining the facts that support it. If evidence obtained at the scene is found to be flimsy and ill-founded, they can help secure your release.
DUI Checkpoints: The Don’ts
As a side note, you should always keep your license and registration where it is easy to retrieve them. The ability to drive is a right, not a privilege, under the law, so law enforcement has the right to ask you for your license. Do not refuse when an officer asks to see this documentation from you.
If you think your rights were violated at a DUI checkpoint, it’s important to remember that you can, in fact, seek legal action. Once you know you are going to be charged with DUI, you should cease speaking to the police and you should immediately call a DUI lawyer.
How an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney Can Help You
The Meranda Law Firm has extensive expertise and experience in handling such criminal defense cases. We can dispatch a DUI lawyer to the place you’re being held immediately. Once your DUI lawyer has arrived, they will tell you the questions you have to answer and the ones you don’t. If you are not up to speaking to the authorities at all, then your criminal defense lawyer can do it for you.
Police do not need reasonable suspicion to stop your car. However, they must have reasonable suspicion, or probable cause, that you are involved in a crime in order to detain you. Do not give them such suspicion. The worst thing you could do is speak or act in any way that makes an officer feel threatened. Once you have done so, they can detain and arrest you.
Most cases do not go to trial. If the prosecution’s facts are weak or there are irregularities in how they collected them, then it may be possible to negotiate a settlement. If that happens, then you want an attorney who has vast experience in sitting at the negotiating table and serving as a highly skilled advocate for their client’s interests.
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, it’s important to remember that you have options.
Call The Meranda Firm at (614) 707-4239 to get the legal representation you need to ensure that your rights and those investigated are properly protected.