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
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
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