Whether you had some eggnog at Grandma’s house or an extra beer with your dinner, seeing a sobriety checkpoint ahead of you on the road can make you understandably nervous. You know that they’re looking for anybody who might be driving under the influence (DUI), and you don’t want to run the risk.
Can you divert your course? Or, is that an automatic ticket to jail? Here’s what you need to know.
It’s not illegal to turn away (as long as you don’t do anything illegal in the process)
DUI checkpoints cannot be just “sprung” on drivers by official whims. Before a DUI checkpoint is set up, the police must publicize all dates and locations. Ideally, you should try to stay informed about where and when checkpoints will be, so that you completely avoid the situation.
That being said, you do not have to go through a DUI checkpoint just because it’s in front of you. You have every legal right to divert your course – but you need to be aware that you will attract some attention when you do. (There may even be patrol cars nearby with officers watching.)
That means you need to be very cautious and make sure that you don’t give the police any legitimate reason to pull you over, like:
- Take an illegal U-turn
- Forget to use your turn signals
- Fail to yield to other traffic
- Run a red light
- Roll through a stop sign
- Drive on the berm of the road
- Cross a solid center line
- Drive over the speed limit
In other words, you need to make sure that you obey all traffic laws precisely. Otherwise, you could end up getting the very up-close and personal attention of an officer despite your efforts to avoid the checkpoint.
If you do choose to go through a DUI checkpoint, remember that you’re committed once you start. If an officer directs you to stop, you must abide by their directions. Just be sure that you understand your basic rights against self-incrimination and what can happen if you refuse to engage in either field sobriety testing or submit to a breathalyzer if asked. If you are arrested for a DUI, it’s critical to get informed legal guidance accordingly.