Sobriety checkpoints – often called DUI checkpoints – are common this time of year, and any time when law enforcement agencies anticipate a fair share of drunk drivers on the roads. Typically, officers at the checkpoint motion drivers to pull over in to the checkpoint area randomly.
If you’re wondering whether this is a violation of your constitutional rights, the courts have found that they are. Officers need to have a neutral formula for which cars are pulled over. Furthermore, the law enforcement agency has to publicize the checkpoint ahead of time. The formula may involve pulling over every fifth car, for example, or perhaps 5 consecutive cars every 10 minutes.
Can you legally avoid a checkpoint?
If you see a checkpoint up ahead and don’t want to go through it, there’s nothing illegal about avoiding before you reach it as long as you can do so without violating any traffic laws.
However, if you do something rash, like make an illegal U-turn in front of the checkpoint, you’re just going to attract attention and probably have officers follow you. You’ll end up in a traffic stop anyway.
What happens at a checkpoint?
Likely, the officer will ask to see your driver’s license, proof of insurance and car registration. They may make sure everyone’s wearing a seatbelt. There may be a bit of conversation to help the officer determine whether you’re under the influence. You’re not required to answer questions about where you’ve been, where you’re going or things like that, but it’s smart to be courteous.
Officers can administer field sobriety tests as well as a Breathalyzer test if they have reason to believe you’ve been drinking. Since Florida is an “implied consent” state, if you refuse the Breathalyzer test, you could face the same penalties you would if you refused it at a traffic stop.
Officers may search your car if they have probable cause to do so and the search is reasonable. Generally, courts have upheld reasonable searches at DUI checkpoints. Officers can see plenty by just browsing inside without actually searching it.
If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint and you believe that your rights were violated in some way, it’s essential to tell your attorney. Go over every step of the traffic stop with them. If the checkpoint – or your stop in particular – was not handled properly, that can work in your favor.