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What to Do At a DUI Checkpoint

November 16, 2015 • DUI Defense

In State Police v. Sitz, 110 S.Ct. 2481 (1990), the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints was challenged on the basis of the Fourth Amendment. The argument was made that a forced checkpoint was a violation of privacy rights; however, the court disagreed. A three-point balancing test was used to determine if checkpoints were reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Because the state had a strong interest in preventing DUI accidents and the checkpoints were a reasonable means of achieving that goal, and because the level of intrusion on privacy rights was minimal, DUI checkpoints were found to be constitutional.

This does not, however, mean that there are not limitations imposed on what law enforcement officers can do at checkpoints. It also does not mean that a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights are never violated. Sometimes, the particular checkpoint is not run properly or police act inappropriately and constitutional challenges do exist. 

A Tallahassee drunk driving lawyer can help you determine if your rights were violated and if evidence can be suppressed so prosecutors cannot present it to try to get you convicted.   You should also be aware of your rights at the time you are going through the checkpoint so you can do everything possible to prevent being asked to submit to a test of your blood alcohol concentration and potentially arrested. 

What to Do At a DUI Checkpoint

When you go through a DUI checkpoint, it is imperative that you drive slowly and carefully and follow officer instructions -- as long as those instructions are lawful. It is also imperative that you know your rights.

As you move through the checkpoint, you may be asked to show the officer your driver's license and registration. You can be prepared with these documents and ready to display them when requested. You should also make sure you are polite and calm when obeying a request to show your documents. 

If the officer asks you questions, however, you are not legally required to provide answers.  You are also generally not required to allow the officer to search you or your vehicle. 

If an officer asks you for information you aren't required to offer, politely respond that you wish to speak with an attorney before answering.  You should assert that you plan to exercise all of your constitutional rights and you should refuse to participate in a field sobriety test or take a handheld breathalyzer test.

Protecting Your Rights

Some drivers have prepared a DUI checkpoint flyer to display in their windows, so they do not need to roll down their window and actually speak with an officer. Opening the window gives an officer the opportunity to indicate that he or she smells alcohol on your breath, which could potentially provide probable cause for the administration of a blood alcohol content (BAC) test. If you do not open your window, there is no possibility for the officer to claim alcohol was detected.

The DUI checkpoint flyer may state your rights, including indicating your intent to remain silent and speak with an attorney. You can display your ID and registration in a bag that you put outside of your window with the flyer before approaching the officer.  Florida Statute 322.15 requires drivers to have and display their licenses when operating a motor vehicle, but does not require the driver to physically hand it to the officer.

While this approach has proved attractive to some drivers who are concerned about police interactions, some law enforcement officials in Florida have indicated they would not accept the flyer in the window and would be more interested in talking to the person who tried to display it. As a result, before attempting this type of evasion, it is important to consider whether doing so is really your best option.

If you are arrested after a DUI checkpoint, you should always insist upon speaking to an attorney right away.  The Tallahassee drunk driving defense lawyers at Soto DUI Defense are available to help when you need your rights protected and need legal advice. Call now to learn more.