Throughout the year, law enforcement places DUI checkpoints or sobriety points in the area to find people who are driving under the influence.
At these roadblocks, all drivers are required to stop and speak with law enforcement. If the law enforcement officer detects any signs of intoxication, they will then request the driver to exit the car and do a field sobriety test – including breathing into a breathalyzer.
These checkpoints are not haphazardly run. Instead, the Department of Transportation has outlined procedures for law enforcement when they run a DUI checkpoint.
According to their procedures posted online, these checkpoints are meant to deter drunk driving and remove those who are intoxicated for public safety.
Doesn’t a Sobriety Checkpoint Violate My Civil Rights as a Grand Junction Resident?
No, they do not.
While you certainly feel as though your rights are violated, it is legal for law enforcement to use these checkpoints.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DUI checkpoints are not a violation of motorists’ 4th Amendment rights. While a regular stop without cause would be a violation of this right, Supreme Courts in multiple states around the country have decided that improving highway safety and reducing DUI-related accidents outweighs the consequences of intrusion.
While the Supreme Court allows officers to stop you during these roadblocks, they require guidelines and officers must follow these guidelines.
When Colorado DUI Checkpoints Are Legal
The Colorado Department of Transportation has guidelines for their sobriety stops. For a stop to be legal, it must include the following:
- Have as little inconvenience as possible to drivers – making motorists wait for hours in a checking line is unconstitutional.
- Use a consistent procedure for choosing which vehicles to stop (such as stopping every third car, inspecting every vehicle, etc.). Furthermore, the process for selection must be on a non-discriminatory basis.
- Provide warning to drivers approaching the checkpoint that they will be stopped and for what reason.
- Have enough staff on-hand and include supervisors.
- Place the checkpoint in a safe location.
- Publish notices to the public about the checkpoint ahead of time.
What Happens at a Checkpoint?
For Halloween, you can see which checkpoints will be in place ahead of time by reviewing the notices on the Colorado Department of Transportation website. Only posted notices serve as legal stops.
Most of these checkpoints happen on major holidays and sometimes on weekends, but you may see a few this Halloween.
As you approach, you will have plenty of notice that you are entering a checkpoint, including warning signs, lights, marked police vehicles, and uniformed law enforcement members. The road might be blocked, forcing cars into specific lanes.
You may be asked to provide your driver’s license and proof of registration at the stop.
If you show physical signs of intoxication or there are smells of marijuana or alcohol from your vehicle, the officer may ask you to pull over for further investigation.
Field Sobriety Tests
If you are asked to pull over, the officer will ask you to complete the field sobriety test. They might also request a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). Both tests are optional, and you have the legal right to decline.
However, declining either test can be used as evidence against you, and you could still be charged and convicted of a DUI without either test. Furthermore, refusing to take these tests will result in an automatic revocation of your driver’s license.
Can I Turn Around?
While you might be tempted to turn around and go the opposite way of a checkpoint, you can only do so if you are in a safe position and you do not violate traffic laws in the process. If you do violate traffic laws, law enforcement has the right to stop you.
What If I’m Arrested at a Halloween Sobriety Checkpoint?
If you are arrested, comply with requests from law enforcement. Also, contact an attorney right away. You have the right to an attorney before answering questions; therefore, exercise that right to protect yourself.
Your attorney may be able to have the charges dismissed, especially if officers did not comply with the CDOT procedures and the stop was illegal.
Some violations your attorney may look for:
- The police department overseeing the stop had no official procedures in place for their sobriety checkpoints.
- The roadblock created a severe traffic hazard.
- Officers conducting the checkpoint did not use a method that was neutral or randomized.
- Officers changed how they selected vehicles in the middle of the checkpoint without documenting a valid reason.
- The mobile checkpoint was not posted on the CDOT website.
- Officers on the scene were not in uniform and unmarked police cars were conducting the block.
- No drug recognition expert was at the scene to determine if a person was under the influence of a substance.
- The officers did not have any supervisors on hand, and they were not briefed about the procedure ahead of time.
- There was no place to conveniently conduct a sobriety test or the breathalyzers were not properly calibrated before the checkpoint.
Speak with a Defense Attorney Today
If you were stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, Halloween or not, you have rights. Speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately to explore your options.
A DUI can permanently affect your life. You may lose your driver’s license, be incarcerated, pay fines, and be forced to use an ignition interlock device (IID).
Schedule your free case evaluation now with attorney Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C.
Call 970-704-0888 or request a consultation online.