Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

  • Oct 18 2018

Everyone at some point has thought of the situation where you’re driving home from a nice night out with friends when you see traffic is backed up. You peek out your window and see barricades and police cars: it’s a DUI checkpoint. You’re pretty sure you’re okay to drive, as you only had a few drinks, but you don’t want to risk it. What are your rights? Are checkpoints even legal? Is it against the law to avoid a DUI checkpoint?

Like many Floridians, you may not know what to do in this situation. Thanks to a recent spate of news stories showing Floridians refusing to roll their windows down at DUI checkpoints, you have likely wondered if DUI checkpoints are even legal in the first place. Here is what you need to know about DUI checkpoints in Florida.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

While police generally need reasonable suspicion to pull someone over, DUI checkpoints are an exception to this rule. In 1990, the United States Supreme Court ruled that these kind of checkpoints meet Fourth Amendment standards of reasonable search and seizure. While many people consider sobriety checkpoints to be highly invasive of their privacy, they are, in fact, legal.

What Can the Police Do at a DUI Checkpoint?

At a DUI checkpoint, police have the right to stop you, ask you for your license, and ask you to perform a field sobriety test/exercise if they suspect you are intoxicated. They are able to look for signs that you are impaired, as well as conduct a visual inspection of your car to see if you have any open containers or drug paraphernalia inside. They can also ask you to step out of your car.

What Rights Do Drivers Have at a DUI Checkpoint?

Florida has what is known as the three-minute rule: officers cannot detain you at a DUI checkpoint for more than three minutes. Furthermore, you have the right to refuse to answer any questions an officer asks you at a DUI checkpoint. Finally, you can refuse to submit to a field sobriety exercise/test—but bear in mind there are consequences for doing so, such as suspension or loss of your driver’s license.

This is not widely known, but the law actually requires police agencies to publicly post the date and location of scheduled DUI checkpoints in advance of actually setting them up. Additionally, drivers must be warned ahead of time that they are approaching a DUI checkpoint. Furthermore, officers must have a specific formula for checking vehicles, such as checking only every third or fourth car.

Finally, most motorists do not know that they have the right to avoid the checkpoint and police cannot be pulled over for choosing to avoid the checkpoint. There may be a police cruiser parked near where you are planning on turning to avoid the checkpoint – this is an intimidation tactic to make you think you will be pulled over if you choose to avoid the checkpoint. However, it is not against the law to turn around or turn down a side street to avoid the DUI checkpoint – just make sure you do not commit an infraction in doing so.

Arrested for DUI?

At Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC, our firm has represented many clients arrested for DUI. We take DUI charges very seriously, and know that they can have a big impact your entire life moving forward. Our experienced Miami DUI defense attorneys are ready to help. Contact us today.

Posted in: Criminal, DUI