Florida joins a large majority of states in which DUI Checkpoints are legal. The question of their legality was fought over years ago and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the danger created by drunk drivers gave the state a substantial government interest justifying a brief traffic stop delaying a driver’s reaching their destination. But the Supreme Court and other lower courts required that police follow strict guidelines when setting up a DUI Checkpoint.
At Stechschulte Nell Law Office, we are committed to ensuring that DUI Checkpoints, sometimes called “DUI Roadblocks,” are planned, organized, and operated within the law. No Tampa or St. Pete area resident should be subjected to illegal or improper police conduct when stopped at a checkpoint.
What Are the Rules At a Florida DUI Checkpoint?
Florida law allows the police to establish DUI Checkpoints but only if they abide by the following rules:
- The guidelines outlining how the checkpoint is to be operated, and how each officer is to conduct themselves, must be drafted in advance and communicated to and understood by every officer.
- The specific, neutral criteria used for stopping random vehicles at the DUI Checkpoint must be established in advance and fairly, evenly, and consistently applied, such as every third car, or every fifth car. Deviating from that set pattern can suggest inappropriate or illegal profiling or discrimination.
- The period during which vehicles are stopped must be limited to a minimal time. Longer delays require particularized grounds to detain any individual driver. Without individualized probable cause, further detention of a driver becomes an illegal seizure.
- The time and location at which a DUI Checkpoint will be established must be publicized in advance.
- Police must post signs at a location before a driver reaches the DUI Checkpoint announcing the presence of a sobriety checkpoint ahead.
What Are Your Rights At a DUI Checkpoint?
Merely because the police set up a roadblock to check drivers’ sobriety does not mean you lose any of your legal or constitutional rights. You are required to pull over and stop if you are selected randomly under the “stop formula” being used. If you are the third car and the stop pattern being used is ‘every third car,’ then you must stop.
You must provide the documents requested by the officer, including your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Must I Answer Questions or Speak with the Police? — NO. You are not legally obliged to answer any questions the police ask. However, the discomfort level created by a confrontation with police usually makes absolute silence impractical. The better policy is to be polite and courteous and to inform the officer that you prefer not to answer any questions.
The purpose of the DUI Checkpoint is to give the officers an opportunity to observe drivers up close, to smell their breath, observe their behavior, and detect signs that the driver’s normal faculties are impaired. The more verbal exchanges you have with the officer, the more evidence the office may collect against you.
Won’t the Police Be Mad If You Don’t Answer Questions? — MAYBE. If you suspect that you may be impaired, getting the police officer a little irritated is a better choice than speaking freely and demonstrating your impaired state.
Do I Have to Perform the Field Sobriety Tests? — NO. Roadside field sobriety tests are used by police to gather the evidence they can then use as grounds to arrest a driver on suspicion of drunk or drugged driving. If you do perform the “walk and turn” or the “one-legged stand” test and the officer determines that you failed, you will be arrested.
After an arrest for DUI, the standard procedure is to ask the driver to blow into a breathalyzer machine that reports the concentration of alcohol in your breath, and in your blood. If you refuse to blow, you can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor of Refusing a Breath Test, carrying penalties just as damaging as DUI penalties.
But if you refuse to perform the field sobriety tests, the police will not be able to point to your failure as grounds for your arrest. The officer’s only evidence is the interaction they experienced with you during the brief traffic stop. If you decide to say nothing or precious little, it doesn’t leave the officer with much to work to justify your arrest.
Can You Turn Around When You Realize a DUI Checkpoint Is Ahead? — YES. Drivers are legally permitted to avoid a DUI Checkpoint by executing any legal turn. Often, police will locate their checkpoints at sites where turning around is not an easy maneuver. If you make an illegal left turn or an illegal U-turn, you can be pulled over for the driving violation. However, if you do manage to turn around and avoid the police DUI Checkpoint, the police cannot pull you over just for evading the checkpoint.
Holidays Are Favorite Times for DUI Checkpoints
Driving under the influence of alcohol or any substance that impairs your ability to drive safely is never a good idea. With all the ride-sharing companies only a few keystrokes away these days, there is no reason you should choose to drive drunk. But, no matter how it happens, everyone makes bad judgments now and then. The board-certified DUI defense lawyers at Stechschulte Nell are committed to aggressively defending every person facing DUI charges. Ben Stechschulte’s experience as a former DUI prosecutor means Stechschulte Nell lawyers know DUI law inside and out.
Remember, as holidays approach, parties and family get-togethers become more frequent. Alcohol is commonly served at bars, restaurants, clubs, and in people’s homes. The police DUI Checkpoints are most likely to appear during these times, especially on the “eve” of the holiday.
Contact Stechschulte Nell for All DUI Defense Needs — Board-Certified Criminal Defense Lawyers. Call us at 813-280-1244.