DUI checkpoints are not just an urban myth. They are real and legal in many states.
Also known as sobriety checkpoints, DUI checkpoints are often set up near restaurants and bars in the late evening and first hours of the morning. There is also a good chance of running into one on a holiday weekend where the risk of drinking and driving is increased.
It is common to question the legality of these checkpoint stops. If you have been asking yourself the question, “Are DUI checkpoints legal in Florida?”, you are not alone.
Read on for the facts about Florida DUI checkpoints, their legality, and what your rights are if you are stopped.
What Are DUI Checkpoints?
A sobriety checkpoint, often referred to as a DUI checkpoint, is a police stop where officers are parked or standing on a roadway to randomly select and stop vehicles. The purpose of this stop is to check for possible impaired drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Police departments are more likely to set these up when there is an increased chance of impaired drivers. This could be a holiday weekend or night, like New Year’s Eve or Labor Day weekend.
The goal is to weed out impaired drivers. Alerting the public that there will be a checkpoint during a time when drinking and driving becomes more common can reduce the number of impaired drivers before the holiday even comes around. Then, through the traffic stop, police departments aim to identify any remaining drivers under the influence and over the legal alcohol limit.
During a checkpoint, a police officer will pull over vehicles based on a predetermined plan. If an officer’s interaction with these drivers gives them a reason to believe that someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may then conduct field sobriety tests such as walking or breathalyzer tests.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Florida?
To many people, a required sobriety checkpoint may seem like an infringement on rights. While this may seem the case, the United States Supreme Court actually ruled in the Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz that these checkpoints did, in fact, meet the Fourth Amendment’s standard of reasonable search.
This did not mean that all states were required to participate in DUI checkpoints. However, it did clarify that sobriety checkpoints are legal. As long as there is public notice of the checkpoint, including the location of it and duration of the stop, and officers use a neutral formula to stop drivers, they are allowed to do so.
Currently, 38 states still permit the use of sobriety checks as a part of their efforts to reduce impaired driving. So—are DUI checkpoints legal in Florida? Yes. Florida, unfortunately, is one of those states.
The Florida Supreme Court has regulated the ways in which a law enforcement agency can handle DUI checkpoints. The law enforcement department must create a written guideline for these stops before any are performed. This document must mention specifics about how exactly the checkpoints can be implemented and how they will be conducted. Every local officer conducting one of these checkpoints must then follow the guidelines carefully.
Do They Work?
A larger systematic review of 15 independent studies conducted around sobriety checkpoints, found strong evidence to support the effectiveness of these DUI stops in reducing the frequency of DUI arrests. Results showed that the number of impaired collisions in post-checkpoint periods of time was reduced by 19 percent as compared to the pre-checkpoint periods.
On the other hand, the study found that impairment rates only decreased an insignificant amount in non-downtown locations, and they increased a significant amount in downtown areas. This has perpetuated the ongoing argument about whether these stops are actually an effective method for curbing impaired driving.
What to Do If You Are Stopped
If you come up to a sobriety checkpoint, your best option is to pull over to speak to the police officer. While no law keeps you from turning around before the checkpoint, such behavior may warrant extra attention from the officers. They would be able to stop you for any illegal or erratic driving behavior like an illegal U-turn or swerving, so it is smarter just to stay where you are.
If your vehicle is selected for the checkpoint, the officer will ask you to pull over to the side of the road. There, you will need to provide your license, proof of registration, and vehicle insurance. Failure to comply at this stage may result in additional charges.
Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint
If you ever get stopped at a DUI checkpoint, it is important to be aware of your rights.
First, checkpoints must be conducted randomly. For example, they may be required to stop every third car that passes by. Officers are not legally allowed to target any specific vehicles or drivers of the vehicles. It cannot be up to the officer’s discretion who to stop and who not to stop. As mentioned above, there must be a neutral formula used to determine the nature of the random stops.
If you are pulled to the side by an officer and they suspect you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. If this is the case, the officer will ask you to step out of the vehicle. The tests you may be asked to perform include the common walk and turn test, one-leg stand test, or the horizontal gaze test (Nystagmus).
These tests are not mandatory for you to perform; however, an office may use this as a reason to suspect you have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This could lead to a breathalyzer test. If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, your license could get suspended and you may be facing additional charges.
What to Do If You Are Charged
Your best bet is to comply with the officer’s requests at the checkpoint stop, but that does not mean you should take a DUI charge sitting down.
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence at a DUI checkpoint, you need quality representation to fight for your best interests. With the right attorney by your side, you can protect your rights in court.
Get the help of an experienced attorney who is looking out for you. Contact Mike G Law and schedule a consultation today.