It’s common for police to set up sobriety checkpoints on the weekends, especially on holiday weekends. With Thanksgiving coming up, we’ve put together a guide for what you need to know about sobriety checkpoints and your rights when going through one.
The Legality of Checkpoints
Did you know that sobriety checkpoints are not legal in every state? Numerous states have fought against the use of DUI checkpoints, arguing that they violate a driver’s Fourth Amendment rights. This amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. Because police are able to evaluate anyone who approaches a sobriety checkpoint, no probable cause is needed. This is why some states find the use of checkpoints unconstitutional.
In Virginia, however, sobriety checkpoints are legal.
Going Through a Checkpoint
When you are driving, you may be able to spot the checkpoint up ahead. If you spot it ahead of time, the law does not require you to go through it. If you can legally turn around and avoid the checkpoint, you may do so.
After entering the checkpoint, you may or may not be stopped by an officer. They do not check every car and may wave you through. However, if you are stopped, you will first be asked to provide your license, registration, and insurance.
During these initial interactions, the officer will be observing you for any physical signs of intoxication. They will also be checking for any scent of alcohol or marijuana coming from your vehicle.
If the officer finds reason to believe that you are under the influence, they may ask you to take more sobriety tests.
Implied Consent at DUI Stops
You may be wondering, what are your rights when it comes to sobriety testing at checkpoints? Well, your rights are the same as they would be during a traditional police stop.
Under implied consent laws, you are required to participate in chemical testing when asked by police. If you refuse, your driver’s license will be suspended. Field sobriety tests, though, are always voluntary. If you refuse, you will not be penalized.
We recommend always refusing to participate in field sobriety tests. Of the three main types of tests, the one with the highest accuracy rate is still only 77% accurate, according to the NHTSA.
Numerous non-alcohol-related factors can also influence your ability to pass these tests, such as:
- Uneven or rocky roads
- Bad weather
- Misunderstanding instructions
- How the officer administers the test
Tips for Going Through a DUI Checkpoint
Now that you know what you can expect to occur at a checkpoint, here are some tips to keep in mind that can help protect you from unexpected charges.
Use Your Right To Remain Silent
Some people have the misconception that you have the right to remain silent only after being arrested. This is not the case; you have the right to remain silent at all times when interacting with the police. At the sobriety checkpoint, the officer may question you about how much you have had to drink or as other questions, hoping you incriminate yourself. You are not required to answer these questions, so don’t!
Don’t Consent to a Search
If the officer asks to search your vehicle, calmly state that you do not consent to a search. If you consent, the evidence they collect from your car is valid and can be used against you.
Physical symptoms of anxiety, like jitteriness, resemble those of intoxication, so do your best to remain calm.
Virginia DUI Defense
If you have been charged with DUI after going through a sobriety checkpoint, our firm, Tillotson & Martin, LLC, is here to help. We’ll give your case the close attention and care it deserves. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our expert DUI defense lawyers.