It’s fairly common that drunk drivers will be caught at sobriety checkpoints, but there are a few things that drivers should know about these traffic stops:
- First of all, DWI traffic stops aren’t legal in every state. Driving laws always differ from state to state, and some states prohibit law enforcement officials to have mandatory sobriety checkpoints on public roads. In states where sobriety checkpoints are legal, officers often pick out cars at random (rather than make every car stop).
- Even if a state prohibits sobriety checkpoints, it’s still legal for a police officer to park his/her car in a hidden spot and watch cars drive by. If he/she suspects that someone is driving under the influence, it’s perfectly legal to pull the driver over. Unsafe lane changes and the inability to drive within the painted lines are often the reasons for cops to pull over drivers under the suspicion of drunk driving.
- The Fourth Amendment is often the law that first comes to mind when determining the legality of drunk driving checkpoints, but this law merely protects Americans against “unlawful search and seizure.” A police officer cannot randomly pull over a driver and demand to inspect his/her car without any official reason, but if the officer talks to the driver and smells alcohol or sees an open container of alcohol in the person’s car, the officer has every right to ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests and/or take a breathalyzer test.
- If a driver is stopped at a routine sobriety checkpoint, it’s important that the driver does not lie to the police officer. However, the driver can refuse to answer questions directly that may incriminate him or her. For example, if an officer asks the driver if he/she has been to a bar that night, it’s unlawful for the driver to say “no” if he/she has, in fact, been to a bar — but the driver can respectfully decline to answer the question.
- And finally, if the police officer decides that the driver may be driving while intoxicated, the officer has every right to demand field sobriety tests and/or chemical tests (like a breathalyzer test) before letting the driver go. If it’s determined that the driver is under the influence, he/she will be subject to the same DUI arrest process that is required for drunk driving charges. Being caught at a sobriety checkpoint doesn’t change the punishments of driving under the influence.
Now it’s up to you — what are your tips for dealing with a sobriety checkpoint? Any Dos or Don’ts? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section! See this link for more.