The holidays are a time for celebration, and those celebrations often involve alcohol. But while many people drink responsibly, others do not, and that leads to an increase in drunk driving during the holiday season. To combat this danger to public health, law enforcement agencies often establish additional sobriety checkpoints around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
But while these DUI checkpoints are meant to keep the public safe, sometimes the officers assigned to them overstep the bounds of the law. You have rights, and if those rights were violated at a DUI checkpoint, the case against you may be dismissed.
What are DUI Sobriety Checkpoints?
DUI checkpoints are roadblocks that require drivers to stop and demonstrate that they are not intoxicated before they are allowed to pass. During these stops, a law enforcement officer checks to see whether the motorist appears to be driving under the influence of alcohol, and will also check drivers’ licenses and registration.
Are Checkpoints Legal?
Sobriety checkpoints have been the subject of numerous legal challenges due to concerns regarding their constitutionality. Citizens and lawyers alike have argued that sobriety or DUI checkpoints infringe on our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. In 1990, a case challenging the practice made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that sobriety checkpoints do not violate drivers’ Fourth Amendment rights because law enforcement serves a significant purpose of reducing drunk driving.
Every state has its own laws and guidelines that govern whether sobriety checkpoints are permissible and, if so, how they are to be conducted. Virginia does allow DUI checkpoints, but places certain limits on them, which we will discuss further.
Sobriety Checkpoint Guidelines
Virginia provides guidelines that law enforcement must follow when conducting sobriety checkpoints, specifically that:
- Law enforcement must choose in advance when and where the checkpoint will be and the checkpoints must be chosen based on statistical data
- Law enforcement must publicly announce where those checkpoints will be
- The checkpoints must also be on roads that are well-lit and safe for both drivers and law enforcement officers
- A supervisor must be present at the checkpoint
- Law enforcement must be in uniform so that they are identifiable by drivers
- There should be appropriate signage alerting drivers that they are approaching a checkpoint
- Law enforcement is prohibited from stopping every car and must instead rely on a mathematical formula, e.g., stopping every fourth vehicle
- Law enforcement cannot use discretion when choosing which vehicles to stop and must adhere to the mathematical formula
- There should be a reasonable number of law enforcement officers to conduct the checkpoint
Can I Drive Away from a Checkpoint?
There is nothing in the law that states that you cannot avoid a checkpoint, as long as you do so safely and without violating any other traffic laws. If you commit a traffic violation in order to avoid a checkpoint and you are seen doing so by law enforcement, they now have a legally justifiable reason to stop you.
How a DUI Defense Lawyer Could Help You
If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you deserve a defense lawyer who will vigorously defend your rights and fight the charges you are facing. You deserve the experienced Virginia DUI defense attorneys at Invictus Law. We are ready to discuss your case with you in detail, and to determine the options available to you at this critical juncture. Call us today at 757-317-5125 or contact us online to speak with one of our compassionate attorneys.