What you need to know about DUI Checkpoints
Now that the holidays are here, local police officers will be setting up DUI Checkpoints on a regular basis. Normally the police are required to observe traffic violations in order to stop drivers, however the law provides that in certain circumstances they can set up checkpoints in order to investigate whether drivers are operating their vehicles under the influence of alcohol.
The normal method to setting up one of these checkpoints is to have a number of officers lined up in an area of a major road. They will stop drivers going through the checkpoint and make a brief inquiry by asking for the driver’s license, and inquiring whether they had anything to drink, and possibly where they are going and where they are coming from. Any drivers which the officers wish to investigate further, will be asked to pull over to a separate area, usually a parking lot where they will do further investigation.
One of the first things you need to know is that if you attempt to avoid a DUI Checkpoint, there are usually police cars driving around the area who will attempt to make traffic stops on people who turn off before they enter the checkpoint. It is not legal for the police to stop you for turning and avoiding the checkpoint, however what will usually happen is that the officers will follow you in attempt to observe a traffic violation, however minor, in order to find a reason to stop you and make further observations. If you turn away before you enter a DUI Checkpoint, it is very important that you obey all traffic laws completely. You must use turn signals. You must absolutely stay in your lane and travel at a rate of speed which is neither too fast, nor too slow. If you fail to do this, a police officer will certainly attempt to make a traffic stop on you.
If you do drive through the DUI Checkpoint, you will be met by an officer who will approach your vehicle, ask for your driver’s license and ask you a few basic questions. You are required to produce your driver’s license when requested by the police officer. However, you do not need to answer any questions. Many people, when asked by a police officer whether or not they have been drinking will say “two beers” no matter what amount of alcohol they have consumed. The proper approach would be to state that you do not want to answer any questions rather than lie if you have in fact been drinking. The officer may decide, if he believes he smells alcohol or makes observation such as slurred speech or glassy eyes, to ask you out of the car for further investigation. For this reason, it is wise to limit your conversation with the officer to as little as possible. Produce your license, decline to answer any questions and ask if you are free to leave. If you are ordered out of your car after that, a good attorney could argue that there was no basis to further detain you.
If the officer does ask you to get out of your car for further investigation, you should comply with his request. He will be asking you to perform field sobriety tests. You should know that most people cannot perform these tests under the best of circumstances and doing them will not be to your advantage. You have an absolute right not to perform these tests. When asked to do so by an officer, the correct way to respond would be to state that you do not want to do any field sobriety tests and ask again if you are free to leave. At this point, the officer must make a decision whether to arrest you without seeing any bad driving, without seeing any field sobriety tests and only based on a few moments of interaction with you. If he chooses to do so, a good attorney has a very good argument that you were arrested without probable cause and can file a motion to have your case thrown out.
If the officer does decide to arrest you, he will ask you after your arrest to take a breath test. At most DUI Checkpoints, the police officers will set up a mobile breath testing device to administer breath tests to persons who are arrested at the Checkpoint. There are a number of rules and regulations regarding these machines and their operation, and a good attorney will be able to challenge that, particularly for a machine that was set up so hastily.
You should be aware that if you refuse to take a breath test, your license will be suspended by the State of Ohio for a period of one year, however this period can be appealed if there were no grounds to arrest you. If you do take the test and are over the limit, your license will also be suspended, but for a period of ninety days. If take the test and are more than double the legal limit, by an amount of 0.17 or higher, this is considered a high blow which will dramatically increase the penalties that you will be facing in your DUI case. If you have driven through a DUI Checkpoint and are arrested by the police, be polite, but exercise your right not make any statements and not to do field sobriety tests. Contact an attorney as soon as you are released who can aid you in your defense.