Sobriety Checkpoints 101: Drink Responsibly to Avoid a DUI
When coming upon a sobriety checkpoint, you may feel a sense of panic. Anxious thoughts creep in. “Did I remember to pay the insurance? When do my tags expire?! I had a few beers, what if I am over the limit?!” Many people are at least slightly uncomfortable around police officers. Knowledge is power, though. Having a clear picture of what will happen at a sobriety checkpoint will ease your mind and help you navigate the process at least a little more comfortably. After all, you are bound to come upon a checkpoint eventually, which are much more common during holidays.
Can I just skip this?
Your first instinct may be to take that next left turn before the checkpoint. While this is not illegal*, it does make you look suspicious. An officer cannot pull you over specifically for avoiding a checkpoint, but they are allowed to follow you and pull you over for any traffic violation, no matter how minor.
Checkpoints are used in many places because they have been found to be very effective in reducing traffic fatalities, even though some estimate checkpoints only catch around 38% of the drunk drivers in the area. While there are legal parameters that apply, checkpoints in general have been determined to be legal in all states. They do have to follow certain rules, though. This is just one more reason that it is wise to hire an attorney if you have been charged with a DUI or DWI.
What can I expect when I see the flashing red and blue lights?
In all states with sobriety checkpoints, they are required to be safe. You should see cones or other forms of traffic direction along with the flashing lights. They may or may not choose to stop your vehicle, so pay attention to police officer directions. If you do get stopped, the officer may ask for your license, registration, and insurance. They may then ask a few questions about where you have been and whether or not you have been drinking. This brief interaction is a chance for them to observe you to determine if you may be intoxicated. If they suspect you have had too much to drink, you will be asked to pull off the road and submit to a field sobriety test and/or a field breathalyzer.
What is a field sobriety test?
The field sobriety tests vary a bit, but are a series of directions by the police for you to perform acts or tasks designed to help officers determine if you are intoxicated. These include actions that are very simple to perform when you are sober, but pretty difficult when you are not. You may be asked to stand on one leg, walk in a straight line, and/or follow a light with your eyes while keeping your head still. If the officer determines you have failed any of these test, they may ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test. If you refuse, you will likely be taken into custody and transported to a hospital to possibly have a blood test performed there after a search warrant is obtained.
Of course, the best way to avoid unnecessary stress at a checkpoint is to avoid drinking and driving. If you do get a DUI, be sure to get a lawyer and if convicted, comply with all the terms of your sentence. In some areas, you may be able to get your license back faster by having an ignition interlock device (an “IID”) installed in your vehicle. This is a simple device that prevents your car from starting if you exceed the legal BAC limit. Here at Draeger, we can help ease the stress of getting an IID installed if you do get a DUI. Please contact us to find out more about how we can help get you back on the road and back on track.