The Supreme Court has recently upheld the legality of sobriety checkpoints, and that has resulted in thousands of additional DUI arrests throughout the country every year. In many cases, even drivers who are not impaired can still receive a ticket or be arrested for other issues such as revoked licenses and expired registration tags. That is why it is so important for all drivers to understand their rights and responsibilities during a sobriety checkpoint and immediately after being charged. Those who fail to fight their DUI charges might find themselves struggling with overwhelming court fees, fines, a license suspension, and many other penalties.
The Legality of DUI Checkpoints
Sobriety checkpoints are legal in most states, but law enforcement officers must follow very specific regulations when setting up a checkpoint. Any mistakes that they make during a sobriety check could affect the legality of the arrest. In order for the checkpoint to be valid, it must be considered “reasonable” by the courts. That means it is in a safe location that has been approved by at least one supervisor.
The law enforcement officer must also have reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk before making an arrest or detaining an individual. Officers will look for common signs of impairment such as red eyes, the odor of alcohol in the vehicle, or an inability to answer certain questions. They can also detain the individual if they noticed any erratic behavior when approaching the checkpoint including swerving, braking too early, or failing to turn the headlights on at night.
Police Checkpoints Locations
Once the location has been approved, the law enforcement officers must sufficiently staff the area so that drivers are not delayed for a long period of time. The are also obligated to clearly notify drivers that the checkpoint is legal and staffed by sworn and uniformed officers. At no time should the drivers or their passengers ever feel as if they are in any danger or being unfairly targeted. Once you have come to a full stop at the checkpoint, the officers will generally ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. They will then use that information to make sure that you are legally allowed to drive and have no open warrants in your name.
DUI Checkpoints By State
There are currently 12 states that have made DUI checkpoints illegal. That includes:
- Rhode Island
While formal DUI checkpoints are illegal in these states, drivers should realize that they can still be pulled over at a “safety spot check” or another similar checkpoint. During these stops, officers will look for any signs of impairment. Law enforcement officers can ask the driver to carry out roadside sobriety tests such as walking in a straight line. Drivers who can’t complete the tasks or refuse to take them might be detained and formally charged with a DUI. Once charged, they are then obligated to take a chemical BAC test. Those who refuse to take the chemical BAC test can have their license suspended for one year or longer.
Following a DUI Arrest
Being arrested at a DUI checkpoint can be very stressful for drivers, and many of them don’t know what is going to take place after being charged. If you or a loved one has recently been arrested, then you should immediately contact a DUI lawyer to discuss your legal options. These situations are extremely complex, and even a minor mistake can ruin your case and bring your life to a grinding halt. As soon as you are able to do so, you should also write down as much information about your arrest as possible including the time of day you were arrested, the exact questions you were asked, and the layout of the DUI checkpoint. While that information might not seem important, it could be invaluable to your case.
Getting a DUI Charge Dismissed
Due to the complexity of these cases, there is no single tactic that works for every single driver. Your attorney will need to pour over the evidence to find any mistakes that the officers made. Relatively minor issues such as the calibration of the breathalyzer could make all the difference in your case. Drivers who try to talk their way out of an arrest often end up incriminating themselves by admitting they had a single drink or committed a minor infraction. Anything that is said to the officers during or after your arrest will most likely be used against you at a later time.
The True Cost of a DUI
Even first-time offenders might end up losing thousands of dollars if they are convicted. The initial expenses include impound fees, court fees, and fines from the DMV. Once you have paid all of those fees, you will then need to reinstate your license and find specialty insurance. The insurance rates for drivers who have DUIs generally cost hundreds of dollars extra every month, and the charge will most likely remain on your record for five years or longer.
If there are any extenuating circumstances such as old DUIs on your record, then all of the fines and fees will be increased. Some repeat offenders are also given jail time, and that could potentially ruin your career. Many states enforce additional penalties for repeat offenders including the installation of an ignition interlock device, sobriety classes, and community service. Depending on where you were arrested and charged, your first offense might end up costing you $20,000 or more.
Finding the Right Attorney
Drivers who receive any charges while behind the wheel of a vehicle should work with a lawyer who specializes in traffic regulations. The laws regarding DUIs and DWIs can be quite complex, and it takes years of training to understand all of the nuances of this area of the law. A DUI attorney will not only evaluate all of the evidence provided by the law enforcement agency, but they can also take a closer look at the legality of the checkpoint itself.
Building a Case
After being arrested and charged with a DUI, you only have a short period of time to begin establishing your case. In some situations, drivers have just a few days to notify their insurance provider of the arrest and file the proper paperwork with the local courthouse. Once you have contacted the attorney, you can then make preparations for your initial arraignment. During the arraignment, you and your attorney will hear all of the formal charges before entering a plea. Those who initially plead innocent or no contest can generally change their plea at a later time, but drivers who plead guilty are rarely able to change their mind. Before entering any plea, you must speak with your lawyer to discuss all of your options. After the arraignment and preliminary hearing, the judge will then decide if there is enough evidence to send you to trial.
Drivers should never try to take on the legal system alone if they have been charged with a DUI. Not only are these cases convoluted, but the results could change your life forever. You might find yourself unable to drive to work or even fired from your job because of the DUI on your record. For many people, the charges are so expensive that they end up going into debt to pay the fines and fees. Luckily, drivers can beat their charges after being arrested at a DUI checkpoint. With an experienced attorney by your side, you can rest assured that you are in the best possible position to have the charges reduced or dismissed entirely.