Yes, the state of Colorado requires that law enforcement announces any DUI checkpoint location. DUI checkpoints are legal in the state, and it is critical that you know your rights in case you find yourself stopped at a checkpoint in the future.
Just because a DUI checkpoint is legal does not mean that they are conducted legally. That means that law enforcement may inadvertently violate your rights when arresting you at a checkpoint. If you believe you were unlawfully arrested at a DUI checkpoint in Colorado, you may have a chance to get your case dismissed. Even if you do not think your rights were violated, it is in your best interest to speak with a defense attorney. A DUI conviction will change your life forever. Therefore, you cannot risk such a dramatic change to your quality of life by trying to represent yourself in your DUI case.
While you wait for your consultation with a defense attorney, get to know your rights and the correct procedures law enforcement must obey while conducting a DUI checkpoint stop.
How Should Law Enforcement Announce a DUI Checkpoint?
Law enforcement only needs to provide a few days’ notice about an upcoming DUI checkpoint. In addition to announcing it publicly, they must post warning signs so that you know you are approaching a DUI checkpoint. Most checkpoints are done on city streets and typically done in the evening and night hours. They will consist of a roadblock along with several warning signs before you reach the actual checkpoint.
You can usually find announcements for upcoming DUI checkpoints online. Various websites track future checkpoints, and some law enforcement agencies will announce a DUI checkpoint at the start of the year and provide a calendar of all upcoming checkpoints for that year.
What Happens at a DUI Checkpoint?
When you approach the DUI checkpoint, all vehicles will be required to stop at the barricade where law enforcement is present. When it is your car’s turn, a police officer will ask you for your driver’s license and they may ask for your vehicle’s registration, too. Then, law enforcement may ask a series of questions such as where you are going, where you are coming from, and if you have had any alcoholic drinks.
If you exhibit any signs of intoxication or if there is a warrant for your arrest, law enforcement may detain you. Typically, you will be asked to pull off to the side of the road and exit your vehicle. Once you have pulled over, law enforcement will have you take a sobriety test if they suspect you are driving under the influence. You may be asked to provide a breathalyzer sample if you fail the field sobriety test.
Doesn’t Law Enforcement Need Probable Cause to Arrest You for a DUI?
In a traditional DUI traffic stop, law enforcement must have probable cause for stopping your vehicle and conducting a field sobriety test. It can become confusing at a DUI checkpoint because law enforcement is not stopping your vehicle with probable cause but instead forcing all vehicles to stop and prove that they are not under the influence.
Stopping every person that travels on the same road has been argued as a violation of a person’s constitutional rights, which protect them against unlawful search and seizure. Law enforcement does not have probable cause when they stop every vehicle at a DUI checkpoint. That is why law enforcement must notify the public of an upcoming checkpoint, because by doing so, drivers know ahead of time that they will be stopped. This notification helps law enforcement to skip the issue of probable cause.
While you can argue the validity of an arrest at a DUI checkpoint, the Supreme Court has already ruled that the risk of allowing a drunken driver to stay on the road outweighs a person’s intrusion. While this Supreme Court ruling upholds arrests made at a DUI checkpoint, law enforcement must adhere to strict guidelines that are issued by the NHTSA. Failing to follow those guidelines could result in a DUI case being dismissed in court.
What Are the Laws Police Officers Must Follow?
At a DUI checkpoint, the Colorado Department of Transportation requires that law enforcement must:
- conduct an inspection that minimally intrudes on a motorist’s rights;
- ensure that the general public and other law enforcement professionals are kept safe during the checkpoint;
- have a method in place for picking motorists for inspection that is predetermined and written down, such as stopping every other vehicle;
- move vehicles out of traffic if they decide to conduct a field sobriety test;
- announce the checkpoint to news outlets before it occurs;
- staff and supervise the checkpoint with a reasonable number of law enforcement professionals; and
- set up a checkpoint with warning signs so a motorist knows ahead of time that they are approaching one
When law enforcement does not comply with the guidelines, an arrest made at that checkpoint could be considered illegal. It is important to note that a DUI arrest may hold up even if specific guidelines are not followed. The courts often hold certain guidelines more important than others. Therefore, your attorney must argue why the specific directive ignored holds serious value to prove that your arrest was unjustified.
Arrested at a DUI Checkpoint? Speak with a Defense Attorney Right Away
If you or a loved one has been arrested at a DUI checkpoint, exercise your right to counsel by hiring a defense attorney immediately. You are not required to answer any law enforcement questions until your attorney is present. Staying silent is the best thing you can do for your case.
To discuss your legal options after a DUI checkpoint arrest, contact attorney, Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., immediately. He has helped countless Colorado residents combat unlawful arrests at DUI checkpoints, and he can help you explore any options in your case.
A DUI can permanently change your life – do not risk fighting these charges alone. Instead, request a free consultation by calling us directly or filling out an online contact form.