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Know your rights at DUI checkpoints

While some people will tell you that DUI "checkpoints" or "roadblocks" are a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights in regard to illegal search and seizure, that is simply not true. In Maryland, it is absolutely legal for police to stop people through DUI checkpoints.

In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that DUI roadblocks are a reasonable seizure using what they called a "balancing test." The Court searched through many state judgments and consulted with the Center for Disease Control, which noted that in states that used checkpoints, the number of drunk driving incidents had lowered by ten percent. The Court ruled that the benefits to society outweighed what could otherwise be illegal seizure under the Constitution, and that checkpoints were legal at the federal level.

While 12 states have banned them, Maryland hasn't. In fact, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the benefit to society outweighed the level of intrusion at roadblocks. However, this does not mean that DUI checkpoints are a free-for-all for police officers. You still have rights and it is important you know them because unless you are incredibly lucky, you won't have a lawyer in the car to advise you.

1. Don't drink and drive

Your first option is to not drink at all, which obviously solves the entire issue. However, having a drink and getting behind the wheel is not illegal. What is illegal is having too many drinks and then driving. In Maryland, it is illegal to drive with a Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) of .08 or greater. The problem is that alcohol affects everyone differently. One or two drinks may be fine for some people, while the same amount of alcohol could place another one over the legal limit. If you plan on a night out, plan for a sober ride or call a cab.

2. You have the right to advance knowledge

You have the right to know in advance when and where these checkpoints are going to happen. There are several sites online devoted to divulging this information as well as the police department conducting the stops.

3. Uniformed officers and marked cars are a must

You have the right to have a uniformed officer present driving a marked vehicle. Otherwise it is an illegal stop by law. Consult your attorney in advance to determine a course of action if you run into this situation.

4. You don't have to answer certain questions

You have the right to only answer questions concerning your identification. However, refusing to answer other questions can upset some police officers. No matter how upset police get, it is within your rights to refuse to answer additional questions. If you choose to exercise this right, be sure to do so in a polite manner - even if you are being intimidated by police. Rubbing the officer's nose in the fact that you are exercising legal rights could prompt him/her to start looking for more reasons to arrest you. Be polite from beginning to end, no matter what.

5. You have the right to consult an attorney

A wise professor once told his class that if he repeated something three times, it was important. The same concept applies here. You have the right to consult an attorney. From before an incident to after an arrest you have the right to consult an attorney.

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