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What Happens at a Sobriety Checkpoint?

U.S. Military Police conduct a random DUI Enforcement checkpoint Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 8, 2008. The DUI Enforcement checkpoint turned out to be successful with no intoxicated drivers. (U.S. Air Force photo Airman 1st Class Grovert Fuentes-Contreras)

Credit: U.S. Air Force photo Airman 1st Class Grovert Fuentes-Contreras

By Colin Maher

Many of the questions I get as a dui defense lawyer Columbus Ohio concern sobriety checkpoints.

Yes, they are legal. No, you cannot get away with just slowing down while holding your license against the driver’s side window. Treat anything you read, see, or hear about those “ways to beat a checkpoint” as the myths they are. Potentially harmful myths, at that.

Specific details about the laws controlling checkpoints and legal procedures law enforcement officials must follow vary from state to state, but any U.S. driver should know the following six things about their rights and risks when facing a random stops for the detection of people who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

You Can Avoid Checkpoints

Police must publicize the general dates, times, and locations of DUI checkpoints Columbus Ohio. Additionally, they must be well lit so the traffic barriers, police vehicles, and lines of cars are usually easy to spot from a distance.

A driver who knows where a DUI checkpoint will be or sees one in the distance can choose a route that takes him or her around or in a different direction than the checkpoint. Do be aware, however, that no one can break a traffic law to avoid going through a DUI checkpoint.

If You Don’t Avoid a Checkpoint, You Must Stop

A driver who enters a DUI checkpoint must then comply with all the lawful orders issued by police officers or state troopers. Failing to stop when signaled to do so or refusing to hand over one’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance will usually get a driver arrested.

You Retain Your Rights to Remain Silent and to Contact a Lawyer

Law enforcement officials cannot force a driver to answer questions or engage in conversation. They will ask a series of questions because intoxication can often be inferred from slurred speech or verbal confusion. The best strategy is to respond very briefly to basic questions about your name and address confirmation and practice the right to remain silent for the duration of the time.

Drivers can also call a DUI attorney in Columbus or wherever they happen to be if the situation escalates to where it looks like an arrest will occur.

You Can Usually Refuse to Perform Field Sobriety Tests

In the state of Ohio, a driver can simply say no when asked to let a police officer check his or her eye movements, ability to walk a straight line, and/or ability to maintain balance while standing on one foot. That being said, refusing to perform that tests will likely result in your arrest (but less evidence against you).

You Can Refuse Requests to Let Officers Search Your Vehicle

Law enforcement officials can order a driver and passengers to exit a vehicle. Officials can then pat down each vehicle occupant for weapons and contraband (i.e., drugs and drug paraphernalia). Officials can also look through a vehicle’s windows for weapons, alcohol, drugs, and other items that give them a valid reason to enter the vehicle.

What police officers and state troopers at DUI checkpoints cannot do is open a vehicle’s trunk or pop its hood without securing permission from the driver. Conducting an illegal search can provide grounds for getting charges based on the improperly obtained evidence thrown out.

You Can Be Charged With Offense Unrelated to Drunk or Drugged Driving

A DUI checkpoint is really a traffic stop without a reason to pull you over.

Most of the charges issued at sobriety checkpoints have nothing to do with driving under the influence. Outstanding warrants get served, vehicle owners are cited for expired registrations, those without a license are arrested and their cars towed, and some even get taken into custody for illegal possession of drugs or weapons.

If you need the help of a Columbus, Ohio DUI attorney, don’t hesitate to call The Maher Law Firm at (614) 205-2208 or contact us online.