Dealing with DUI

DUI Checkpoints

Law enforcement officers use DUI roadblocks or sobriety checkpoints to get impaired drivers off the street. The practice was modeled after roadside safety checks and license inspections routinely performed by police departments. Police officers have the authority at these checkpoints or roadblocks to stop all vehicles or use a pattern for stopping drivers and investigate whether they are under the influence.

When are they conducted?
DUI checkpoints are usually conducted at night or early in the morning when drivers are exiting restaurants, bars and clubs. Sometimes they are set up near these places where drinking occurs. Otherwise, they are set up outside of neighborhoods or at entrances to apartment complexes or gated communities.

Normally there are three to four units of uniformed police officers in marked vehicles present at these checkpoints, which are usually designated by a number of orange cones on the roadway. The officers will either pull over every car, although this usually occurs on less traveled streets, or will select a pattern, such as stopping every third vehicle.

Because police department claim these checkpoints are a deterrent, they are required to be publicized aggressively. Oftentimes, these checkpoints are advertised in local newspapers. Police departments are required to select an area for a specific reason, such as the number of accidents in the area. They are also required to warn approaching drivers of the checkpoint.

What happens at a checkpoint?
If you are stopped at a checkpoint, the officer will ask you step out of your car. It is recommended that you lock your car if asked to step out of it. The police officer may also ask you to search your car. It is recommended that you refuse this request as the officer may not have the legal authority to conduct a search.

The police officer may ask you to take a field sobriety test. These tests usually require you to walk in a straight line or touch your finger to your nose. You may refuse to take a field sobriety test. Lawyers recommend you refuse to take the test because the officer will have less evidence against you in the event of an arrest.

You may also be asked to take a breathalyzer test in order to gauge your blood alcohol level. Again, most lawyers recommend refusing to take this test as well. However, not taking these tests may result in a suspended license or other consequences in some states that can be more severe than a DUI charge.

Are they effective?
Some argue that DUI roadblocks and sobriety checkpoints do not necessarily reduce the amount of drunk drivers on the street. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted several studies on this topic and have concluded that officers patrolling the streets make three times more DUI arrests than officers conducting stationary checkpoints.

However, police departments say these checkpoints are effective at detaining and deterring drunk drivers. They also see an added benefit in showing the community that driving while intoxicated is not tolerated.