A DUI / DWI checkpoint is a type of police roadblock used to improve roadway safety through the apprehension drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. Also known as sobriety checkpoints or roadside safety checks, they may be announced by local police departments in advance, but in many instances, they are not. Typically, checkpoints are set up late at night or on weekends and often coincide with holidays that involve increased alcohol use, such as New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day.
These checkpoints are legal in 39 states but considered unconstitutional in 10 others. Alaska does not use checkpoints, although they remain legal there. In general, DUI / DWI checkpoints have stood up to challenges in the courts, despite issues regarding lawful search and probable cause. As a point in their favor, the combined outcomes of 23 scientific studies indicate that they reduce alcohol-related car crashes by about 20 percent.
DUI checkpoints catch more than just those driving while intoxicated; they also can net individuals with outstanding warrants, vehicle registration or tax violations and those driving with a suspended or invalid license. When presented with identification in these situations, many jurisdictions will perform a warrant check while also looking for signs of possible impairment.
Breathalyzers and field sobriety tests are common tools used at checkpoints if a driver is under suspicion. Roadside sobriety tests allow an officer to measure a possible drunk driver’s balance, physical abilities, the level of focus and other factors related to intoxication. These are less scientific than a Breathalyzer, which determines blood alcohol content (BAC) using a breath sample, and are usually accurate when properly calibrated and administered (although this is not always the case).
Because mismanagement of DUI / DWI checkpoints is a real possibility, if you have been accused of driving under the influence at one of these stops, you should contact a qualified and experienced DUI lawyer to review your case and represent you in court. A DUI lawyer will be able to examine the facts and give you options that you may not otherwise have. With the assistance of an experienced defense attorney who specializes in this area, you may have the opportunity to enter a plea bargain for lesser charges or find ways to reduce your sentence. To get the best possible result and ensure your rights are respected, contact a lawyer as soon as possible following your DUI arrest.