If you’ve ever encountered or anticipate encountering a DUI roadblock you may be wondering: what are my rights at a DUI checkpoint? DUI checkpoints / sobriety checkpoints are legal procedures. They are also common procedures. In North Carolina (and many other states) DUI checkpoints are mobile setups and choose “random” locations.
The point is that DUI checkpoints happen regularly and you may encounter one in your life. Or maybe you already have. In either case, it is always beneficial know what you should do and what your rights are at a DUI checkpoint.
What Are My Rights At A DUI Checkpoint?
Depending on your situation, there are quite a few questions you may have to answer and decisions you may have to make at a DUI roadblock. Whether or not you’ve been drinking, you still have rights at a checkpoint. Here are some you should know about:
- You do not have the right to avoid a checkpoint. If you are approaching a checkpoint, then, and you decide to avoid it by taking a detour or turning around, then the police have the right to follow you, ask you why you avoided the checkpoint and investigate. Even if you are making a legal turn before the checkpoint, an officer may perceive this as an attempt to avoid the checkpoint and may initiate a traffic stop for the same. This does not mean that such a traffic stop is legal, but don’t be surprised if one occurs.
- You do have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, as well as the field sobriety test –but proceed with caution. While you do have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test and also a field sobriety test, refusing these psycho-physical tests is evidence of guilt in North Carolina. Again, you certainly have the right but refusing these tests implies guilt and could cause greater harm to your case at a later time.
What Are Police Officers Allowed To Do At DUI Checkpoints?
You have your rights at a DUI checkpoint and so does the police officer. Here are some of the basic rules and regulations a police officer follows as he performs his check:
- A police officer does not need a warrant to search your car for alcohol (or other drugs). If an officer smells alcohol or other drugs in your vehicle, your car can be searched without a warrant. Other suspicious signs caused by alcohol/drugs may also allow the officer to investigate your car.
- A police officer should keep stops at checkpoints “brief”…but that no longer applies if there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion to investigate. This simply means that if the police officer has cause or suspicion that you may have been drinking or that you are under the influence of some other substance, then he has the right to keep you at the stop, ask questions and investigate.
- A police officer does need reasonable suspicion to detain you at a checkpoint. While an officer does not need reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop you at a legally operated checkpoint, the officer does need reasonable suspicion or probable cause to investigate crimes discovered during the brief interaction with you at the checkpoint.
What To Do At A DUI Checkpoint?
Knowing some general rules and tips for DUI checkpoints can help you remain calm and collected at a DUI checkpoint. Here are some best practices to follow:
- If it happens to be nighttime when you are stopped, turn your interior car light on and place your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them.
- Roll down the windows before the officer comes to the car. It is polite gesture and sign of respect/compliancy.
- Say “hi,” “please,” and “thank you” to the officer and use other polite and respectful language.
- Sidenote: always try to keep your vehicle registration and insurance easily accessible. The last thing you want to be doing when your nervous is fumbling around in your glove compartment looking for paperwork.
In short, stay calm, cool, and collected at DUI checkpoints. Be courteous and respectful. Give clear, simple answers to the officer. And above all, tell the truth. Whether or not you’ve been drinking, when it comes to the law, telling the truth will save from serious punishment and could also help you win your case (if you are charged with a DUI).