Can Officers Force Me To Submit To The Checkpoint? What About Probable Cause?
Though the Constitution requires that a police officer has probable cause for a traffic stop, the Supreme Court has ruled that the potential dangers of DUI offenders outweighs a DUI checkpoint’s ‘degree of intrusion.’ Thus, DUI checkpoints are an exception to the search and seizure provision of the U.S. Constitution.
So What’s The Best Thing To Do?
Firstly, make sure that you start recording the encounter to ensure that the officers don’t break any laws if you do end up getting detained. If you feel uncomfortable talking to law enforcement, you can place your license, registration, and a note in a baggie and hang it out the window, or place it up against your window. On the note it should legibly read: -I remain silent -I refuse any searches -I want my lawyer Though Colorado has ‘implied consent’ laws, which state that drivers in Colorado consent to chemical testing by their being on the road, it only applies when directed by a law enforcement officer with probable suspicion of a DUI. If you don’t have a pen and paper available to you, you can roll down the window and hand over your license and registration without saying a word. By waiving your right to remain silent by speaking, you may say something that can come back to bite you in the ass in court.
Can I Turn Around?
As long as you do not break any other traffic laws (i.e. turning around where U-turns are prohibited), you are under no obligation to proceed through a DUI checkpoint. Though DUI checkpoints are legal, a driver is only required to submit to a search if they pass through the checkpoint and is selected. Turning around at a DUI checkpoint may seem suspicious to police, but as long as you do not commit any other traffic violations in doing so, they do not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over. Sometimes, an officer will follow behind you to try and observe any erratic driving that could constitute a legal traffic stop, but as long as you do not swerve, drive ‘too slow,’ or straddle the center line, you should be left alone.
I Got Arrested Through A DUI Checkpoint, What Do I Do Now?
Contrary to popular belief, DUI checkpoints are actually quite fightable in court. The courts have established very strict guidelines as to what the officers can and cannot do and even when, why, and where they’re allowed to be placed. Specifically, the police department must provide a good reason why the roadblock was an effective means of crime prevention. They must also prove that the checkpoint was constitutionally viable, which is a difficult task for prosecutors to take on. Further, DUI checkpoints are required to have an accepted and affirmative plan for which cars they are going to stop and for how long, provide adequate lighting, and ensure safe conditions. If the local police department deviated from protocol in even the least bit, a motion to suppress the evidence (the breathalyzer results) could be filed. Without the chemical tests as evidence, it’s likely that your DUI charges will be dropped. In these situations, it’s not impossible, but extremely difficult to represent yourself. Attorneys who practice exclusively in DUI law understand the intricacies of traffic stop protocol, and may be able to find a loophole for you to squeeze through.
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Updated: October 18th, 2016