What is a DUI checkpoint?

DUI checkpoints also known, as sobriety checkpoints are quite common and you might encounter them more often than you’d like. They function as a general-purpose investigatory tactic that allows for police officers to get a close look at passing motorists by detaining them briefly. A roadblock stop is usually quick, but it gives the police a chance to check tags and licenses, while also giving police officers a quick whiff of the driver’s breath and glance at the drivers eye’s. It also gives the officer a chance to peer into the vehicle for a quick moment. Based on the results you are either allowed to continue driving or will be booked for a DUI.

A DUI checkpoint can be just a place where one or more law enforcement officers are stationed and stop certain vehicles based on a preselected numeric value, like every third vehicle.

Remember that your constitutional rights still apply in a roadblock situation. Though police are permitted to stop you briefly, they may not search you or your car unless they have probable cause that you’re under the influence or you agree to the search. As such, you are not required to answer their questions or admit to breaking the law. In this article we will give you a bit of information for what to do if you find yourself stopped at a DUI checkpoint.

7 Things to remember at DUI checkpoints

First and foremost you should know that Texas is one of the 12 states that does not conduct any sobriety checkpoints. The reason for this dates back to a 1994 decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The Arlington, Texas, police department conducted a DUI checkpoint in May 1991 pursuant to guidelines approved by local officials. A driver detained and arrested at this checkpoint later argued this violated their Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution to be free from unreasonable searches.

The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed. But the court did not say all sobriety checkpoints are unconstitutional. Rather, it held such checkpoints “must at a basic minimum be authorized by a statewide policy emanating from a politically accountable governing body.” In other words, the Texas legislature could authorize DUI checkpoints, but local police departments cannot simply implement them on their own initiative. With that being said, lets go over some need to know facts should you find yourself at one of these checkpoints.

1. DUI checkpoints follow a protocol. A “protocol” means that officers must follow the same procedure for every vehicle. Officers can’t dismiss you because you obviously haven’t been drinking, and they can’t jump to conclusions because you look especially drunk.
2. DUI checkpoints have to be clearly marked for safety. DUI checkpoints must be clearly marked to prevent collisions from drivers surprised by police officers popping up (especially at night), This includes correct lighting, signals, warning signs, and clearly marked police vehicles and personnel.

3. Officers must identify themselves. They should wear both their uniforms and any necessary reflective gear for being spotted in the dark. This means that a DUI checkpoint shouldn’t be confused with a speed trap, where officers tend to cloak their vehicles.

4. Officers look for signs of intoxication. If the police officers suspects that you have been drinking, they may ask you whether you have been drinking tonight. The officers will also begin to look for signs of intoxication. Some of these signs include: slurred speech, smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, flushed face, and lack of coordination.
If you display any of these symptoms, the police officers may give you a quick breathalyzer test. If the officer doesn’t have a breathalyzer with them, they may ask you to move your vehicle to the side of the road and step out of the vehicle to give a roadside DUI test.

5. If you fail a DUI test. If you fail the DUI test then you will be arrested for a DUI and will be taken to the precinct to take a chemical test (blood, breath, or urine) to give a more accurate reading of your blood alcohol level.

6. You are not legally obligated to answer any questions. As with any routine stop, you are required to provide identifying information such as your name, address, driver’s license and registration. Should the officer as you any further questions; you may politely let the officer know that you do not wish to answer any further questions. You may remain silent or simply inform the officer from the start that you do not wish to discuss your affairs. However keep in mind that if you answer some questions but not others it tends to raise suspicion.

7. Every state has its own set of standards. The decision to allow DUI checkpoints or not is up to each individual state. This means that while you may be subject to a DUI checkpoint in Utah, you may not have to go through such a checkpoint if you live in a different state. This also means that the standards for each state’s checkpoints are different, so it helps to do a little research if you travel out of your state.

This is a general article for example purposes. As always, please contact us at 979-821-2663 regarding your specific case.