DUI Resources: Article Library

DUI Sobriety Checkpoints

DUI Sobriety CheckpointSobriety checkpoints or roadblocks involve law enforcement agencies stopping every vehicle on a selected road or highway and investigating the possibility that the driver may be impaired. Roadblocks are often set up late in the evening or in the early morning hours and on weekends and holydays, at which time the proportion of drunk drivers tends to be the highest.

If the driver has slurred speech or breath alcohol odor, he or she will be asked to leave the car and perform field sobriety tests at the scene. Upon suspicion, the stopped driver is required to exit the vehicle and take a field sobriety tests that requires the demonstration of both mental and balance skills. If the officer determines that the test has not been passed, the driver is then required to take an alcohol breath test.

At a sobriety checkpoint, drivers are necessarily stopped without reasonable suspicion, and may be tested summarily and without probable cause. Jurisdictions that allow sobriety checkpoints often carve out specific exceptions to their normal civil protections, in order to allow sobriety checkpoints.

Driving under the Influence of alcohol or drugs is a special type of crime, as driving with blood alcohol content (BAC) over a set limit is defined as the crime; it is not necessary to drive recklessly or cause an accident in order to be convicted. To determine BAC accurately, it is generally necessary for the driver to subject themselves to tests that are self incriminating, and drivers sometimes exercise their right against self incrimination to refuse these tests. To discourage this, some jurisdictions set the legal penalties for refusing a BAC test to equal or worse than those for a failing a BAC test. In other jurisdictions, the legal system may consider refusing the roadside alcohol breath test to be probable cause, allowing police to arrest the driver and conduct an involuntary BAC test.

In an effort to provide standards for use by the states, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration subsequently issued a report that reviewed recommended checkpoint procedures in keeping with federal and state legal decisions:

  • A checkpoint in the United States Decision making must be at a supervisory level, rather than by officers in the field.
  • A neutral formula must be used to select vehicles to be stopped, such as every vehicle or every third vehicle, rather than leaving it up the officer in the field.
  • Primary consideration must be given to public and officer safety.
  • The site should be selected by policy-making officials, based upon areas having a high incidence of drunk driving.
  • Limitations on when the checkpoint is to be conducted and for how long, bearing in mind both effectiveness and intrusiveness.
  • Warning lights and signs should be clearly visible.
  • Length of detention of motorists should be minimized.
  • Advance publicity is necessary to reduce the intrusiveness of the checkpoint and increase its deterrent effect.

The Bottom Line ... Don't take the risk!

If you're going to drink ...
Designate a driver.
Call a cab.
Stay at your home or hotel.
Call a friend or family member.

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