DUI checkpoints are some of the most conflicting areas on the roads. Some people believe that they're illegal, allowing the police to search vehicles and stop individuals with no reason to do so. Others believe that they're a good way to keep the roads safe, since people who were intoxicated can be stopped without conflict.
At a DUI checkpoint, you need to know your rights. DUI checkpoints became legal in 1990 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that they could be used. However, the Supreme Court didn't specify what drivers have to do at these checkpoints.
Can officers search my vehicle at a DUI checkpoint?
While some might say they can, the reality is that they still need a reason to do so. For example, if you roll down the window and they smell alcohol on your breath, they might have reason to ask you to come out of your vehicle and take a roadside sobriety test or Breathalyzer test. Is that enough to search your vehicle? Likely not. However, if you have a can of alcohol out in the open, this might give them what they need to search. They are allowed to take evidence that is in "plain view."
Do you have to roll down your window at a DUI checkpoint?
Not technically. As long as you can speak with the officer and give them the information they're asking for, like your license and registration, then it should be fine to keep your window up. It is usually advisable only to roll it down far enough to give the officer your ID and appropriate paperwork, since officers do use this time to see if they can smell alcohol or drugs in your vehicle. If they do, then they have probable cause to stop you, which they didn't have previously.
What should you do if you are arrested at a DUI checkpoint?
If a checkpoint leads to your arrest, it's in your best interests to get in touch with your attorney before speaking to the police or going through any kind of interview. There are still many concerns about the legality of sobriety checkpoints, and there may be actions that your attorney can take to help prevent you from facing charges. No matter what happens, it's always going to be in your best interest to look into developing a strong defense against any allegations you face, especially involving DUI charges.