Your Rights When Stopped At A DUI Checkpoint
What you need to know to protect yourself during a sobriety check
Florida is one of 38 states that conduct DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints. These are temporary roadblocks set up by law enforcement officers to check drivers for signs of intoxication or impairment. Officers may choose to check every driver who comes through or choose drivers at random. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, there are between 15 and 20 checkpoints set up each month across Florida. The state justifies these checkpoints as another means of deterring drunk driving. But do they really accomplish that goal, or are they yet another infringement on our constitutional rights?
The Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court in the land, has acknowledged that this practice does infringe upon citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights regarding illegal search and seizure. But the Court but has not struck down the practice as long as law enforcement can demonstrate it is effective and not overly intrusive. To accomplish that, Florida has established a rule that restricts law enforcement officers from detaining drivers in a checkpoint for more than three minutes. But even in that short time, if you’re charged with DUI, your life can change drastically. It’s time to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can safeguard your rights and driving privileges.
You should also be aware that there is no such thing as a “drugged driving” checkpoint in Florida. If you see signs claiming one is ahead, it is a trap, designed to get you to turn around. This behavior can be used to justify a search of your vehicle. Never consent to such a search.
At Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A., our criminal defense attorneys have successfully defended Florida drivers against DUI charges for many years. We know just approaching a DUI checkpoint can make you nervous and lead to behavior that gives law enforcement cause to suspect DUI. You need to know that drinking and driving in Florida is only illegal if your blood alcohol content, or BAC, is .08 percent or above and you’re visibly impaired. That’s why it’s important to know your rights and then contact us if you’re charged with DUI.
What you should—and shouldn’t—do if stopped at a DUI checkpoint
The more you know about what happens during a DUI checkpoint stop, the better prepared you are to remain calm and avoid making mistakes. The following is a likely series of events during a checkpoint stop in Florida:
- The first thing a law enforcement officer will ask you is to show identification. Once you’ve complied and if they begin asking you other questions, you have the right to decline.
- Next, the officer may ask to search your car. You have every right to refuse, but if you’re ordered out of your vehicle, lock the doors.
- If you’re suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer will ask you to take a field sobriety test, to test your balance and coordination. You have the right to refuse and ask to speak to an attorney.
- Once you arrive at the police station, request again to speak with an attorney if you haven’t done so, before submitting to any tests.
- You are required by law to take a blood alcohol test. If you refuse it, your license can be revoked or suspended. We suggest you submit to this test; even if the results show you’re intoxicated, we can question the test’s reliability and accuracy. If you’re given the option of a blood test or a Breathalyzer, which only estimates your BAC, it’s better to choose the latter, because Breathalyzer test results can often be suppressed.
Any stop by the police is a frightening and stressful experience. By knowing your rights under the law during a DUI checkpoint—and remaining as calm and civil as possible—you give yourself the best chance of a favorable outcome, and you give your attorney the time to prepare a solid defense of your DUI charges.
Contact us for help with your DUI charge in Florida
If you’ve been charged with DUI following a sobriety checkpoint, it’s important to seek solid legal counsel as soon as possible, to protect your rights and fight for your freedom. At Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A., our Jacksonville DUI attorneys understand the wide range of penalties involved with DUI charges in Florida and are thoroughly prepared to offer you a determined defense. Contact us online or call our office today at 904-353-5800 for a free consultation with a member of our firm.