How to Protect Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint

In Florida, DUI checkpoints or sobriety checkpoints are common. These checkpoints involve law enforcement officers setting up roadblocks that motorists pass through. Police can check tags, driver’s licenses and make determinations based on a driver’s behavior regarding whether the motorist is possibly impaired.

DUI checkpoints are controversial because they constitute a “search and seizure.” A motorist may be required to stop his vehicle and interact with police at the checkpoint, which some argue is a Fourth Amendment violation because the motorist is being detained-- albeit briefly-- without probable cause. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has upheld the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints, so they are here to stay.

Since there is the potential to be stopped at a checkpoint, you need to know your rights and ensure you can protect yourself.  If you are stopped at a checkpoint and your interaction with the police subsequently results in an arrest, it is also imperative that you consult with a Tallahassee DUI defense attorney to try to ensure that this random traffic stop does not result in a conviction that could affect your future.  Call Soto DUI Defense for help.

What are Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint?

The first and most important way to protect your rights at a DUI checkpoint is to know your rights.  In Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, the U.S. Supreme court voted 6-3 that sobriety checkpoints were constitutional and lawful nationwide.   Checkpoints were found constitutional because of the legitimate interest states have in achieving the goal of impaired driving. Checkpoints are considered a legitimate means of achieving the goal of DUI prevention and the intrusion on privacy is considered minimal enough for checkpoints to be justified.

While checkpoints are permitted, the Fourth Amendment still provides protection. This means the police cannot just conduct a search of your vehicle or compel you to take a breath or blood test.

Police officers must have probable cause to search your car, unless you give consent to a search. The police must also have probable cause to conduct a blood alcohol content (BAC test). With probable cause, the police can compel you to take a breath test, even without a warrant. However, police officers cannot force you to take a blood test unless you consent or unless and until a warrant is obtained.

Ensure Your Rights Are Protected

Knowing your rights is an essential first step to protect your rights at a DUI checkpoint, but you must make good use of the knowledge.

Deciding how to act at the checkpoint can be difficult, especially in light of controversial advice to place your license and registration in a bag outside of your window, along with a written statement that you want an attorney and will not permit a search.  This advice is aimed at allowing you to avoid interaction with the police, but the president of the Florida Sheriffs' Association indicated that typically, motorists wouldn't be allowed through the checkpoint unless the motorist speaks to the police.

Instead of engaging in behavior that could arouse suspicion, it is best to provide a copy of your license and registration to the police and briefly and politely answer straightforward questions, such as inquiries about your name. You should be cautious not to volunteer information that could potentially provide police with probable cause or could be used against you, such as indicating to the police that you had “a drink or two.”

If you are asked to take a field sobriety test, you have the right to decline, as these tests can be subjective and create probable cause for an arrest.  You should also request an attorney as soon as possible if you are arrested or if the police indicate a desire to question you beyond the basics.  Getting legal help is the best way to protect yourself.

Contact a Tallahassee DUI Defense Attorney Today

Tallahassee DUI lawyers can help protect your rights when you're stopped at a DUI checkpoint. Give Attorney Gus Soto a call as soon as possible to learn more about the assistance Soto DUI Defense can offer.