DUI checkpoints are stressful for everyone. After a long day, the last thing you want to do is wait in line to talk to a police officer. And if you’re already a safe driver, why do they need to stop you?
DUI roadblocks are designed to be random, which means most drivers are bound to encounter one sooner or later. Keep reading to learn more about how DUI checkpoints work and what to do when you’re stopped at one.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
It depends on where you live. DUI checkpoints — also called sobriety checkpoints or DUI roadblocks — are legal in most states. But you won’t find DUI checkpoints in these states:
- Rhode Island
This isn’t to say that these states are any more lenient on DUI laws. Getting caught driving drunk in any state will mean steep fines, license suspension, and even jail time. And in many states, you’ll also need to file an SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility, which can raise your car insurance rates for years.
Can You Find Out Where a DUI Checkpoint Will Be?
Each state that permits DUI checkpoints has its own laws about the purpose and frequency of a roadblock, as well as how visible they must be. A DUI checkpoint doesn’t need to be completely disclosed ahead of time, but states are required to publish the date, timeframe, and reason for the roadblock.
For example, you may read that there will be a roadblock in your county next weekend, but you won’t know exactly where the checkpoint will be located. Of course, there are some common-sense ways to guess where a checkpoint is most likely to be set up:
- Around holidays that can involve heavy drinking (New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, etc.)
- Near bars, clubs, and areas where alcohol-related crashes have occurred before
- On major arterial roads and highways in your area
Even if you don’t know exactly where and when to expect a DUI checkpoint, most states have regulations about clearly marking checkpoints so that you have the opportunity to exit the highway or turn around.
Can You Turn Around Before a DUI Checkpoint?
In most cases, you’re legally allowed to turn around before a checkpoint and take an alternate route. But while you can’t be stopped simply for avoiding the checkpoint, you can still be pulled over for something else, like making an illegal U-turn or driving erratically. At that point, the police officer is within their right to have you take a sobriety test if they think you’ve been drinking.
Not surprisingly, police officers will be suspicious of anyone trying to avoid a checkpoint and will pay close attention to your driving to find a reason to legally stop you.
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What Happens When You’re Stopped at a DUI Checkpoint?
For most people, stopping at a DUI checkpoint lasts no more than a few minutes. A police officer will first look for obvious signs of intoxication such as visible open alcohol containers or the strong smell of alcohol on your breath (the exact DUI laws vary by state). You’ll be asked a few simple questions to test your speech and mental coordination.
And that’s it! If you don’t appear to be drunk, then you’ll be allowed to drive away.
If the police do suspect that you’ve been drinking too much, then they’ll ask you to pull over for more in-depth questions and sobriety tests. At this point, you’ll need to provide a valid license, car registration, and proof of insurance just like you would at a normal traffic stop.
So, even if you test sober, you can still get in trouble if your license is expired or if you forgot to renew your SR-22 insurance or let it lapse for any reason.
What to Do When You’re Stopped at a DUI Checkpoint
Ideally, your time at a DUI roadblock will last only a few minutes. Be respectful and your experience should go smoothly.
Here are a few tips on what to do when you can’t avoid a DUI checkpoint:
- Stop at the checkpoint. If it’s too late to legally avoid the DUI checkpoint, then slow down, come to a complete stop, and roll down your window to talk to the police officer. You should never drive through the checkpoint without stopping.
- Always remain calm. Whether or not you’ve been drinking, acting confrontational or uncooperative will only make things worse.
- Don’t volunteer information. Listen carefully to the police officer’s questions and answer only what is explicitly asked of you. If you would rather not answer a question, remember that you have the right to say, “I don’t want to answer that.”
- Know your DUI rights. States set their laws about what counts as a legal traffic stop and sobriety test. For example, your case may get dismissed if the officer forgot to give the full instructions for a field test or if the breathalyzer wasn’t recently calibrated.
- Don’t consent to a search. A police officer may ask if they can search your car. They know that they can’t do so without your consent. You’re legally entitled to withhold that consent. Note that police do have the right to search your vehicle if they have probable cause (for instance, noticing open alcohol containers, drug paraphernalia, or dangerous items like a gun) or if you’re arrested at the scene.
- Find a DUI attorney. If you’re arrested and charged with a DUI, find a DUI attorney as soon as possible. These lawyers are specialists in local DUI regulations and will be able to tell if the police acted inappropriately at the checkpoint. And if you were driving drunk, they’ll work with the courts to settle the charges.
A New DUI Means New Car Insurance
If you were charged with a DUI, then you’ll need SR-22 insurance to get your license back. At SR-22 Adviser, we help drivers around the country find the most affordable SR-22 insurance. All it takes is a few minutes for a quote for cheap SR-22 insurance from our partner.