Understanding Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint
20th May 2022
Every once in a while, police will set up a DUI checkpoint, usually on a major highway. While checkpoints are legal, drivers need to understand that they have rights as well. Just because a checkpoint is approaching, that doesn’t mean you have to go through it, and if you do, your rights still have to be observed at all times.
Here’s some information on how checkpoints work, what to do if you’re arrested at one, and how an attorney may be able to help. Sand Law attorneys have an extensive amount of experience defending people charged with DUI, and we’re ready to put our knowledge to work on your behalf.
Get in touch with us online or call 701-609-1510 for a free case review.
Why are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
DUI checkpoints aren’t new by any means, of course. They’ve been around for several years. While many have challenged the legality of checkpoints, they still remain. But how can this be the case, since the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from being searched without a reason? After all, that’s basically what police officers are doing at a DUI checkpoint, right? They stop every vehicle on the road, even though they have to reason to believe anyone has done anything illegal.
The Supreme Court has made an exception to the Fourth Amendment in regard to checkpoints. The court has ruled that checkpoints are more important than the inconvenience forced upon those who have to drive through them. So, basically, that’s why checkpoints remain legal in the U.S.
Does a Driver Have Rights at a DUI Checkpoint?
Without a doubt. Even though the law imposes severe penalties upon those caught driving under the influence, people still have rights. Those rights don’t disappear just because motorists have to stop and answer questions. Here are just a few things to remember should you ever come upon a DUI checkpoint.
You Are Legally Allowed to Avoid a Checkpoint
There are many instances where you’ll see a checkpoint long before you get to it. That gives you a choice – either drive through the checkpoint, or try to avoid it. There’s nothing illegal about choosing the latter option, as long as you don’t violate any traffic laws. You can choose to take a different street, or you can make a U-turn.
Of course, there is the chance that making any sort of sudden maneuver – even if you don’t break any traffic laws – could get an officer’s attention. In some cases, courts will support an officer’s choice to pull over a motorist for evading a checkpoint.
Do I Need to Roll Down My Window and Answer Questions?
The typical driver moving through a DUI will have their window rolled down. The officer will ask them if they’ve been drinking, they’ll say they haven’t, and then the motorists will simply go on with the rest of their night.
But just because that’s what most people do, that doesn’t mean you’re legally bound to do the same thing. While you obviously just can’t ignore the officer, there are many experts who believe you should not have to supply your registration, license and insurance. Some suggest drivers tape a piece of paper to the window asserting their right to remain silent. Before you do anything like that, however, talk to an attorney who is familiar with North Dakota law to make sure it will be advisable for you to do so.
Do I Have to Participate in a Field Sobriety Test or Breathalyzer?
You do not have to submit to a field sobriety test. Not only that, your refusal can’t be held against you in court. This type of test is notoriously inaccurate. People who have certain medical issues – and who haven’t had a drop of alcohol – fail them on a regular basis. This includes those who are obese, have inner ear issues, balance issues, speech and/or mental impairments, and others.
When it comes to the Breathalyzer test, however, that’s a different animal altogether. Even though breath tests can also be unreliable, if you refuse that could result in a lengthy driver’s license suspension.
What to do if You’re Arrested at a DUI Checkpoint
Being arrested for a DUI is obviously a frightening experience. Remember, however, that just because this happens, that doesn’t mean you’ll eventually be found guilty. Keep your cool, and keep the following in mind.
- Stay calm. This is probably the most important thing you can do. Don’t argue with the officer – be as polite as you can possibly be. Every action you make is going to be captured by the dashboard camera on the police car.
- Don’t say more than you have to say. You’ll only be obligated to tell the officer your name – that’s it. Even though they may try to get you to tell them whether or not you’ve been drinking, and how many drinks you’ve had, you don’t have to tell them a thing.
- Take detailed notes. Write down everything that happens during the arrest, such as whether or not the officer read your Miranda rights, the behavior of the officer, and anything else you observe. Even if you think it won’t make a difference, write it down anyway. Something you think is irrelevant could be a powerful help to your case.
Contact a DUI Defense Attorney Today
Your next step should be to get the help of an experienced DUI defense attorney as fast as you can. Sand Law attorneys have that experience, and we will leave no stone unturned to do everything possible to have your charges dropped. If that’s not possible, we’ll do all we can to have your penalties reduced.
If you’ve been arrested at a DUI checkpoint, please don’t hesitate to contact our law firm as soon as you possibly can. It could very well be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Schedule a free consultation by using our online contact form, or by giving us a call at 701-609-1510.