At some point, one of your aspiring lawyer friends probably mentioned that sobriety checkpoints constitute an “illegal search,” and if you decline, the police are powerless to stop you. This is far from the truth. This article will discuss how checkpoints work and if you can get charged with a crime if you are arrested at one.
Sobriety checkpoints are used by law enforcement to discourage drinking and driving. The goal is that by setting up blocks at key thoroughfares, it will cause drivers to think twice before getting behind the wheel. It is critical that the checkpoint’s goal be deterrence and community safety and not investigation. It is a fine line. Additionally, the checkpoint must be well-publicized to effectively deter drunk driving. If the checkpoint fails on any of these requirements, it is possible to argue against the validity of the stop.
For a checkpoint to be valid, the criteria to stop vehicles must be neutral. A typical method is stopping every fourth or fifth car. The police must adopt this method to avoid racial profiling issues. But just because your car was stopped, does not mean that the police can automatically subject you to a breathalyzer test. The officer must have reason to believe that you have been drinking. This is generally established by the officer’s observations, such as the smell on your breath, the way you speak and if your eyes are able to focus.
If you were arrested while passing through a sobriety checkpoint, then you may want to speak to an attorney. Drunk driving charges, depending on your arrest record, are manageable but serious. It is critical that you confront these charges head-on.