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If you haven't seen them in movies, you've probably seen DUI checkpoints in anti-drunk driving ads. And that's if you haven't actually seen the flashing red and blues up ahead on the road and asked yourself if you might've had one too many before getting behind the wheel. DUI checkpoints are everywhere, and if you've never encountered one, it's probably only a matter of time until you do.
But are they even legal? Can't you just turn around if you see one? And what can they actually test you for? Here's what happens at a DUI checkpoint:
First off, your argument that the stop is unconstitutional is probably not going to fly. Many other litigants before you have challenged DUI checkpoints, and courts have consistently held checkpoints to be legal.
As long as officials provide advance publicity and notification of the checkpoint, the location of the checkpoint and duration of the stop are reasonable, and officers rely on a neutral formula for stopping motorists, the checkpoint is probably going to be legal.
While the checkpoint is perfectly legal, you're not required to proceed through it. Drivers must comply with a law enforcement search if they go through the checkpoint and are selected, but there are no laws specifically banning drivers from turning around at a DUI checkpoint.
That said, let's be clear: while simply turning around at a checkpoint alone is not enough to give police the reasonable suspicion required to make a DUI stop, officers can still stop you if they see you do anything else suspicious or illegal, likely driving erratically, making an illegal turn, or otherwise violating traffic laws.
So what can officers ask at the checkpoint? Courts have said that searches, even at DUI checkpoints, must be reasonable. Normally the stop will entail a conversation, and possibly a request for license and insurance documentation. If officers note any signs of drinking or drug use, they may ask you to perform field sobriety tests, or submit to a breathalyzer or drug swab. Generally these tests cannot be mandatory, and can only be requested if police observe bad driving, slurred speech, or other indicia of intoxication. And refusing tests at a DUI checkpoint will have the same consequences as refusals for normal DUI stops.
If you have more questions or if you've been charged with DUI, you should contact an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. Many offer consultations on your DUI case for free.