The Supreme Court has recently upheld the legality of sobriety checkpoints, and that has resulted in thousands of additional DUI arrests throughout the country every year. In many cases, even drivers who are not impaired can still receive a ticket or be arrested for other issues such as revoked licenses and expired registration tags. That is why it is so important for all drivers to understand their rights and responsibilities during a sobriety checkpoint and immediately after being charged. Those who fail to fight their DUI charges might find themselves struggling with overwhelming court fees, fines, a license suspension, and many other penalties.
The Legality of DUI Checkpoints
Sobriety checkpoints are legal in most states, but law enforcement officers must follow very specific regulations when setting up a checkpoint. Any mistakes that they make during a sobriety check could affect the legality of the arrest. In order for the checkpoint to be valid, it must be considered “reasonable” by the courts. That means it is in a safe location that has been approved by at least one supervisor.
The law enforcement officer must also have reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk before making an arrest or detaining an individual. Officers will look for common signs of impairment such as red eyes, the odor of alcohol in the vehicle, or an inability to answer certain questions. They can also detain the individual if they noticed any erratic behavior when approaching the checkpoint including swerving, braking too early, or failing to turn the headlights on at night.
Police Checkpoints Locations
Once the location has been approved, the law enforcement officers must sufficiently staff the area so that drivers are not delayed for a long period of time. The are also obligated to clearly notify drivers that the checkpoint is legal and staffed by sworn and uniformed officers. At no time should the drivers or their passengers ever feel as if they are in any danger or being unfairly targeted. Once you have come to a full stop at the checkpoint, the officers will generally ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. They will then use that information to make sure that you are legally allowed to drive and have no open warrants in your name.
DUI Checkpoints By State
There are currently 12 states that have made DUI checkpoints illegal. That includes:
- Rhode Island
While formal DUI checkpoints are illegal in these states, drivers should realize that they can still be pulled over at a “safety spot check” or another similar checkpoint. During these stops, officers will look for any signs of impairment. Law enforcement officers can ask the driver to carry out roadside sobriety tests such as walking in a straight line. Drivers who can’t complete the tasks or refuse to take them might be detained and formally charged with a DUI. Once charged, they are then obligated to take a chemical BAC test. Those who refuse to take the chemical BAC test can have their license suspended for one year or longer.
Following a DUI Arrest
Being arrested at a DUI checkpoint can be very stressful for drivers, and many of them don’t know what is going to take place after being charged. If you or a loved one has recently been arrested, then you should immediately contact a DUI lawyer to discuss your legal options. These situations are extremely complex, and even a minor mistake can ruin your case and bring your life to a grinding halt. As soon as you are able to do so, you should also write down as much information about your arrest as possible including the time of day you were arrested, the exact questions you were asked, and the layout of the DUI checkpoint. While that information might not seem important, it could be invaluable to your case.
Getting a DUI Charge Dismissed
Due to the complexity of these cases, there is no single tactic that works for every single driver. Your attorney will need to pour over the evidence to find any mistakes that the officers made. Relatively minor issues such as the calibration of the breathalyzer could make all the difference in your case. Drivers who try to talk their way out of an arrest often end up incriminating themselves by admitting they had a single drink or committed a minor infraction. Anything that is said to the officers during or after your arrest will most likely be used against you at a later time.
The True Cost of a DUI
Even first-time offenders might end up losing thousands of dollars if they are convicted. The initial expenses include impound fees, court fees, and fines from the DMV. Once you have paid all of those fees, you will then need to reinstate your license and find specialty insurance. The insurance rates for drivers who have DUIs generally cost hundreds of dollars extra every month, and the charge will most likely remain on your record for five years or longer.
If there are any extenuating circumstances such as old DUIs on your record, then all of the fines and fees will be increased. Some repeat offenders are also given jail time, and that could potentially ruin your career. Many states enforce additional penalties for repeat offenders including the installation of an ignition interlock device, sobriety classes, and community service. Depending on where you were arrested and charged, your first offense might end up costing you $20,000 or more.
Finding the Right Attorney
Drivers who receive any charges while behind the wheel of a vehicle should work with a lawyer who specializes in traffic regulations. The laws regarding DUIs and DWIs can be quite complex, and it takes years of training to understand all of the nuances of this area of the law. A DUI attorney will not only evaluate all of the evidence provided by the law enforcement agency, but they can also take a closer look at the legality of the checkpoint itself.
Building a Case
After being arrested and charged with a DUI, you only have a short period of time to begin establishing your case. In some situations, drivers have just a few days to notify their insurance provider of the arrest and file the proper paperwork with the local courthouse. Once you have contacted the attorney, you can then make preparations for your initial arraignment. During the arraignment, you and your attorney will hear all of the formal charges before entering a plea. Those who initially plead innocent or no contest can generally change their plea at a later time, but drivers who plead guilty are rarely able to change their mind. Before entering any plea, you must speak with your lawyer to discuss all of your options. After the arraignment and preliminary hearing, the judge will then decide if there is enough evidence to send you to trial.
Drivers should never try to take on the legal system alone if they have been charged with a DUI. Not only are these cases convoluted, but the results could change your life forever. You might find yourself unable to drive to work or even fired from your job because of the DUI on your record. For many people, the charges are so expensive that they end up going into debt to pay the fines and fees. Luckily, drivers can beat their charges after being arrested at a DUI checkpoint. With an experienced attorney by your side, you can rest assured that you are in the best possible position to have the charges reduced or dismissed entirely.
DUI Traffic Stop
It should come as no surprise to learn that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal. Being arrested for DUI is a serious offense that can lead to fines, suspension of your driver’s license, and even possible time spent in prison. For these reasons, it’s important to avoid committing this serious offense. However, if the damage is already done, your best bet is to engage the services of a professional DUI lawyer. This is the person who is best qualified to act on your behalf in order to help you avoid the worst consequences of being charged with a DUI offense.
What Is Considered Probable Cause for DUI Traffic Stop?
You may be wondering what probable cause for a traffic stop consists of. There are several ways in which a police officer can come to the determination that you have been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The most obvious justification for a DUI traffic stop is being observed while driving recklessly. For example you be speeding or driving too slowly, swerving across traffic lanes, failing to stop at a traffic light, or failing to yield to other vehicles at the appropriate time. These are all serious indications that something is wrong and will probably result in you being pulled over.
When Can a Police Officer Give You a Field Sobriety Test?
After a police officer pulls you over, they will ask you several questions designed to get to the bottom of why you were driving in such a suspicious manner. If they detect tell tale signs of alcohol or drug use, such as slurred or impaired speech, swaying, blurry eyes, or alcohol on your breath, they will most likely order you to get out of the car in order to perform a field sobriety test. This is standard DUI traffic stop procedure.
What Does a Field Sobriety Test Consist Of?
A field sobriety test can take a number of forms. For example, you may be asked to perform several operations, such as walking for a specified period in an absolutely straight line or standing on one leg until the officer tells you to stop. There may also be a speech test to determine how badly your ability to communicate and understand directions may be impaired. During the time that the test is administered, the officer will be observing your eyes very carefully in order to detect any suspicious dilation of your pupils. Failing any of these tests will likely lead to a further chemical test.
What Does a Chemical Blood Alcohol Level Test Consist Of?
The next step in the standard DUI traffic stop procedure consists of the officer giving you a chemical blood alcohol level test. You may be asked to give a breath, urine, or blood sample. The blood test is the simplest and most direct one. It simply measures the amount of alcohol in your blood. The urine and breath tests are a bit more complex. They work off a mathematical principle that has been specially designed to measure the amount of alcohol in the sample that you have provided. If your sample should test above a .08% blood alcohol level, you may be considered guilty of a DUI.
Is There Any Way to Get Out of Taking a Field Sobriety Test?
You may be wondering if there is any way that you can legally avoid having to submit to taking a field sobriety test at the direction of a police officer. It is important to note that you do have certain DUI traffic stop rights that you are well within the law to take advantage of. In most cases, you are allowed to refuse to take a field sobriety test. However, there will usually be certain penalties attached to your refusal to do so.
For example, refusing to take the test usually results in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license for a certain period of time under an “implied consent” law.
Can You Be Arrested for DUI at a Roadblock?
If you were pulled over at a roadblock and arrested for DUI as the result of failing a field test, you may well be wondering if such a procedure is strictly legal. The answer is that the police are legally allowed to use a neutral, non-discriminatory policy for choosing which cars to pull over. They are especially within their rights to do so if the driver of the car was exhibiting signs of impairment due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Can the Police Ask You Questions Without First Reading You Your Rights?
In certain cases, the police officer who pulled you over for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can ask you certain questions before they have read you your legal rights. During a normal roadside traffic stop, you are not considered to be in custody of the police and there is no reason to read you your Miranda rights just yet.
However, this condition changes the moment the police officer on the scene decides to take you into custody for DUI. At the point that the arrest is made, they must also make sure to read you your full Miranda rights. If the police officer should fail for any reason to do so, your lawyer will have an excellent opportunity to contest the legality of the arrest. If the arrest is declared illegal and invalid, all of the charges that have been filed against you will have to be dropped.
Refusing to Take a Field Sobriety Test May Harm Your Case in Court
It should also be noted that, if your case should go to court, refusing to take a field sobriety test will give the prosecutor in your case the freedom to inform the judge and jury of your refusal to do so. This will tend to have a negative effect on your ability to defend yourself against the charges that have been brought against you. In general, it is probably best to submit to the test as administered by the officer on the scene unless you are convinced that you have a valid reason for not doing so that is sure to hold under questioning in a court of law.
Are You Allowed to Call Your Lawyer Before You Take a Sobriety Test?
Some states, such as Arizona, will allow you to call your lawyer and consult with them before you decide whether or not to take a field sobriety test. However, the majority of states will not normally allow you this privilege. As noted above, it is probably best to agree to take the test as mandated by the police officer on the scene. You can consult with your DUI lawyer later over the results of the test as presented in a court of law. In many cases, your lawyer can work to dispute the results of the test or argue for a mitigation of your penalty based on a blood alcohol content that is barely over the line.
How Soon Should You Consult With Your Lawyer After a DUI Arrest?
You should consult with a qualified DUI lawyer immediately after you are stopped for a DUI, whether or not you are subsequently arrested. This is an issue that you cannot afford to skimp or cut corners on. If you suspect or know that you are soon going to be called upon to answer to DUI charges in a court of law, you will certainly need a legal professional to represent you. Now is the time to consult with a lawyer and arrange for them to accompany you to your preliminary hearing. If the case does go to court, your lawyer can advise you of your rights and work with you to reduce or dismiss the charges.
Refusing a Breathalyzer Test
If you have ever had the misfortune to be arrested on a DUI charge, you know how important it is to cooperate with the police officer who pulled you over. This is not a time to be defiant or combative. The consequences of being arrested on such charges can follow you far beyond the date of your initial offense. If you exacerbate the situation by refusing to follow the directions of the officer at the scene, you will only end up making things much worse for yourself. While there may be reasons for your refusal to take a breathalyzer test, this is not a course most experts would recommend.
Under What Circumstances Can A Police Officer Pull You Over?
If you are exhibiting signs of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating your vehicle, a police officer is within their rights to pull you over. If you are weaving between lanes, driving too fast or too slow, not yielding to other cars, or running through red lights, these are all valid signs that your driving may be impaired. A police officer can demand that you pull over immediately.
What Happens If I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?
At this point, the most pressing question on your mind may well be, “What happens if I refuse a breathalyzer test?” There are a number of consequences that can immediately follow your refusal to take this test, some of which could harm your case if it should go to court. Perhaps the most immediate consequence is that it gives the prosecutor in your case the right to inform the judge and jury of your refusal to take the test. This may not be damning evidence in and of itself, but it may well subtly prejudice the jury in favor of the prosecution. At the very least, they will be wondering what you had to hide.
You May Be Immediately Arrested if You Refuse to Take the Test
You should know that you may immediately be arrested if you refuse to take the test. even if this does not happen, you may still face suspension of your license for a period that will be stipulated by the state. In some states, as noted above, your refusal to take the breathalyzer test will be used as evidence against you when you show up in court. After you refuse to take the test, police officers can still base a DUI charge on your actions as observed by themselves and other witnesses at the scene. For example, if you were visibly drunk, slurring your speech, and smelling of alcohol, all this is evidence.
Refusing to Take the Mobile Breath Test Can Lead to Further Penalties
Some states make a distinction between the act of refusing to take a mobile breath test at the scene and later refusing to take additional breath, blood, or urine tests at the police station or at a hospital later on. Refusing to take the mobile breath test may result in a series of smaller penalties as described above. However, refusing to take the additional tests can result in more severe penalties, including your immediate arrest on DUI charges. While this distinction may not apply in all states, it’s a good idea for you to get up to speed on whether or not your own state is one of the ones where it does.
You May Be Liable to Lose Your License Under an “Implied Consent” Clause
One of the answers to the question, “What happens if I refuse a breathalyzer test?”, may involve the loss of your license under an “implied consent” clause. In many states, one of the conditions for receiving an active driver’s license is that you consent to be subjected to a breathalyzer test in case you are ever pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence. This means that you essentially surrender your driving privileges if you should refuse this test. You will therefore have no legal leg to stand on if you lose your driver’s license for the amount of time mandated by the state.
Some States Will Not Allow You to Refuse a Breath Test
There are some states where refusing to take a breath test is simply not an option. In these states, a “no-refusal” policy prevails. If you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI, you will not be able to avoid taking the test in order to avoid incriminating yourself. A police officer can use a mobile device to immediately obtain an electronic warrant that allows them to force you to submit to a breath test. If you still refuse, you could immediately be charged with contempt. In addition, a police officer could draw blood from your body by force. All of this is legally sanctioned in these particular states.
Is There Ever a Good Reason to Refuse a Police Ordered Breath Test?
It should be clear by now that there really is no “good” reason for refusing to take a breath test. The penalties for refusal can be very harsh, including loss of your driver’s license for a long amount of time. You may also receive heavy fines or even jail time. The only instance in which refusing to take a breath, blood, or urine test may be advantageous to you is when the penalties for being convicted of a DUI will be less easy for you to accept and deal with than the penalties associated with refusing the test. But this is a choice you should only have to weigh as an absolute last resort.
Do You Have the Right to Speak to an Attorney Before Taking a Breath Test?
Some states will permit drivers who have been pulled over on suspicion of DUI charges to contact an attorney before agreeing to submit to a breath test. In other states, you may also be permitted to speak to an attorney before deciding whether to take a breath, blood, or urine test. It’s a good idea to research which states will allow you to do so, since it won’t do you much good to insist on having an attorney present in a state where the police officer that pulled you over doesn’t have to allow this to happen.
What Can a Professional DUI Lawyer Do to Help Your Case?
If you find yourself in the position of having to defend yourself against DUI charges in court, you will need to seek legal representation from a professional DUI lawyer. It’s never a good idea to try to represent yourself against such charges. The prosecutor will be able to call upon a wealth of evidence and testimony from police officers, witnesses to the arrest, and medical experts. Unless you are a physician yourself, you will probably not have the expertise to defend yourself in an adequate manner against this evidence. This is why you will need a lawyer to help you state and prove your case.
A Professional DUI Lawyer Can Reduce Your Charges or Get Them Dropped
It’s an excellent idea to call upon the services of a DUI lawyer as soon as you are arrested or cited for a DUI. This is not something that you want to put off until the date of your trial. A professional DUI lawyer can contest the testimony or evidence in your case in order to get the charges against you either reduced or dropped. At the very least, you may be able to get the amount of your fine reduced or a shorter amount of time that your driver’s license will be suspended. This is an outcome that you will surely want to take advantage of. The best way to have a chance at avoiding an unpleasant outcome for your trial is to have a skilled DUI lawyer in your corner.