What can police officers do at a sobriety checkpoint?

On Behalf of | May 12, 2024 | DUI Checkpoints

Checkpoints involve police officers screening people who pass a certain point on the road for a particular safety issue. People who get arrested at checkpoints and those who worry about encountering them often have questions about these popular law enforcement tools.

People wonder if sobriety checkpoints or driving under the influence (DUI) roadblocks are legal. The federal Supreme Court has ruled on the issue previously and affirmed that checkpoints are potentially legal if police officers conform to certain rules. Police officers need to have certain paperwork in place and must follow rules about their conduct.

People also wonder what they can do when they approach checkpoints. Drivers who encounter a DUI roadblock theoretically have the same basic civil rights as anyone else. Interacting with the police in traffic. Drivers may also question what officers can legally do while conducting a checkpoint or roadblock.

What officer activity is standard and legal at a checkpoint?

Brief initial screening for each driver

The legality or constitutionality of a sobriety checkpoint depends on it having minimal impact on the average person. Therefore, police officers should perform initial screening as quickly as possible to reduce the inconvenience that the checkpoint causes for drivers. Asking a few questions is usually the extent of checkpoint interactions. People should not experience a significant delay or randomized enhanced screening at a checkpoint.

Targeted screening for certain drivers

Depending on someone’s conduct when they speak to police officers during a checkpoint stop, the officers might decide to perform enhanced screening. That screening could include asking someone to pull to the side to perform field sobriety tests. In scenarios where officers have the necessary probable cause to arrest someone, they may also request a chemical breath test. If someone fails the breath test or if they refuse to submit to it despite the officer having probable cause, the driver in question is likely to end up arrested and transported to state facilities. They may then face criminal charges.

Individuals arrested at a sobriety checkpoint or DUI roadblock often need to discuss the situation carefully with a lawyer to determine what defense strategies might work in their cases. Fighting against DUI charges related to a checkpoint is possible but may require careful planning. Motorists who know what to expect when they encounter a checkpoint can assert their rights and identify law enforcement misconduct that might help them develop a defense strategy.

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