Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Florida?

Drunk driving and accidents that happen when people are under the influence are commonplace, and sobriety checkpoints (also known as DUI checkpoints) are frequently able to prevent damage caused by inebriated drivers. You may have seen DUI checkpoints before when driving, particularly in downtown areas or after events such as New Year’s Eve, or large sports games.

DUI checkpoints are unique in that instead of needing “probable cause” to pull a driver over, police can pull cars over randomly without cause. Random checking and testing of drivers for sobriety may seem like an infringement on your rights, but in fact, sobriety or DUI checkpoints are legal in Florida. 

However, there are a number of rules that DUI checkpoints need to follow to be established, and you should be aware of your rights and responsibilities when going through one.

What is a DUI Checkpoint?

DUI checkpoints are frequently set up in places where a higher number of inebriated drivers are expected to be on the road, with the hope that accidents and reckless driving can be prevented. For police to set up a DUI checkpoint, they must establish a location, time, and duration of the checkpoint before it is established. This information must be posted publicly (ex. online) before the checkpoint is set up.

In addition, police must have a pre-established rule for how cars will be stopped, such as one check for every four cars. This is because stops in the checkpoint are supposed to be truly random, and not based on other factors that may normally be looked for when pulling someone over with reasonable cause.

What to Expect if Stopped by the Police?

When you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you will be asked to provide the police officer with your vehicle registration, driver’s license, and proof of insurance. You may also be asked to perform what are called “Field Sobriety Tests”, such as the one-leg stand test, the walk and turn test, and the horizontal gaze Nystagmus test. 

You may also be asked to take a Breathalyzer test, which will determine whether you are at or above the national blood alcohol limit of 0.08 percent.

Related > Are Breathalyzer Tests Always Right?

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal? 

The legality of these checkpoints has been questioned in the past, but the US Supreme Court ruled in Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz that these checkpoints are legal. Despite their legality, there are still a number of rules that must be followed.

How to Deal With a DUI Checkpoint – What Are Your Rights?

If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, your 5th Amendment rights of protection against self-incrimination remain. This means that if police begin to ask you questions you can decline to answer. It’s better to respond to an officer “I decline to answer” rather than to remain totally silent, as complete silence can appear rude and may be construed as non-compliance.

Additionally, you are also not required to roll down your window, as long as you can show your licence and registration through the glass. However, refusing to roll down your window might be viewed as non-compliance depending on the officer. Rolling down your window potentially exposes you to the officer searching for signs of a lack of sobriety, such as red eyes or the smell of your breath.

Can I (Respectfully) Decline to do Field Sobriety Tests?

It is possible to decline to perform the Field Sobriety Tests, but this may not be to your advantage as you may then be asked to perform a Breathalyzer instead. However, it is possible to fail the Field Sobriety Tests even when you are sober or not considered legally intoxicated, due to nerves or anxiety or even prescription medication. 

Refusing a Breathalyzer test is a misdemeanor offense if you have already refused one in the past. This is because Florida has an “implied consent” rule to being tested if you drive in the state. If you are caught driving with a blood alcohol content above the standard of 0.08 percent, it’s possible that you may be subject to penalties including fines, jail time, or participation in an alcohol abuse and education program.

You are also legally permitted to turn away from the checkpoint if you can legally make a turn to do so, such as a legal u-turn or turning down a side street. However, if you make an illegal U-turn or drive erratically to get away from the checkpoint, police are likely to pull you over and you may face stricter consequences.

Call Stechschulte Nell For Help

If you have been stopped at a DUI checkpoint or charged with a DUI offense, the attorneys of Stechschulte Nell can advise you. Call our top-rated Tampa, FL law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak to an experienced defense attorney. We’re available 24/7 to take your call.

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