On most days, when you are driving down the road, you are in no danger of being pulled over by a cop unless you are breaking a law. Cops are not allowed to randomly pull people over without a reason for doing so. This is due to the rights you have as an American under the Constitution. A police officer needs probable cause for pulling you over. However, things change drastically in a certain scenario called DUI checkpoints or roadblocks. What exactly are your rights and what are the laws governing DUI checkpoints? Read on to learn more.
DUI SOBRIETY CHECKPOINTS
Although it may seem like you have rights under the Constitution which protect you from something like a DUI checkpoint, the reality is actually quite different. Although roadblocks are technically in defiance of the protection afforded by the Fourth Amendment, which protects your individual liberties and privacy, the United States Supreme Court reversed the initial decision that roadblocks were unconstitutional in 1990. During this ruling, the Court decided that DUI roadblocks would be deemed constitutionally acceptable due to their interest in reducing alcohol-related fatalities. They essentially weighed the desire to get more drunk drivers off the road with the cost of taking away some liberties from citizens and decided in favor of checkpoints.
Whether or not you agree with this ruling, the reality is cops are allowed to stop you at a DUI checkpoint even if you did nothing suspicious, and even if you were not speeding or breaking other traffic laws. It is important you understand the laws so you know how to handle the situation if you find yourself facing a DUI sobriety checkpoint.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE ROADBLOCK?
When cops set up a DUI sobriety checkpoint, they will stop vehicles passing through the checkpoint and speak to the driver. During this initial conversation with the police officer, the cop will be attempting to detect any signs of intoxication in the driver. They will usually begin by asking you if you have been drinking that night. Never tell a cop you have been drinking period. Even if you tell a cop you only had one beer, he can use this admission to drinking as a reason to detain you for further testing. Not only will a cop ask you outright if you have been drinking, but the officer will also use this time to assess you. Some of the things they will look for include the following:
- Slurred speech
- The smell of alcohol on your breath
- Slow motor skills
- Bloodshot eyes
- The smell of marijuana
- The presence of alcohol or drugs in the vehicle (visible to the cop without a need to search the car)
If the officer notices any signs that you may be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs they will then direct you to leave the road and exit your vehicle. At this point, the police officer may ask you to perform a field sobriety test or a blood alcohol test. Their end goal is to determine whether or not you are over the legal limit in the state of Colorado at which point they will arrest you for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Keep in mind, in Colorado if your blood alcohol content is .08 percent or higher you can be charged with a DUI, and if it is .05 percent or higher you can be charged with a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired).
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I ENCOUNTER A CHECKPOINT?
So what should you do if you encounter a roadblock? First and foremost, as always, we advise you to never get behind the wheel of a car when you have been drinking. If you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then a DUI checkpoint will not be a stressful situation for you.
If you do find yourself facing a DUI checkpoint after drinking, keep the following tips in mind.
- Stay Calm and Respectful: Although you may have seen those YouTube videos where people belligerently defy answering cops' questions as exercising of their rights, we do not recommend acting in an aggravating manner. While you do have certain rights, which we will discuss, do not exercise your rights in such a way that you will anger the officer with which you are interacting. Keep calm and collected. Do not overreact. When you get worked up, and the officer gets worked up, you can wind up doing and saying things that will hurt your case later.
- Say As Little As Possible: A good rule of thumb in general when dealing with cops, particularly when you are likely facing an arrest, is to say as little as you can. Don’t ramble on about how you wound up in this situation. Do not rant about DUI sobriety checkpoints and how they aren’t fair. Keep silent as much as possible. Answer only a bare minimum of questions and remember that when you are facing arrest you have the right to remain silent. Let the officer know you would like to speak to your lawyer before answering any further questions.
- Get In Touch With A DUI Lawyer: If a DUI checkpoint results in your arrest, contact a DUI lawyer as quickly as possible. An experienced DUI lawyer can get to work building you a defense and can help advise you on the best way for you to handle the situation you are currently facing. A DUI lawyer from our team will be there to ensure your interaction with cops and your answers to questions are in the best interest of your case. Don’t delay in reaching out for help. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to build a solid case.
GET IN TOUCH WITH OUR TEAM
If you have questions about your rights in regards to DUI sobriety checkpoints, please contact our team. We will be happy to help you understand what your next course of action should be. Don’t face a DUI charge alone. Talk to a team of experienced DUI lawyers in Fort Collins and start fighting for your future. Reach out today and call us at (970) 238-7900.