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Exploring The Legality Of DUI Checkpoints

If you've been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) as a result of an encounter with law enforcement at a checkpoint, you are right to question the legality of it. All aspects of a DUI arrest should be examined for legality and that means the very first issue your attorney will address is the legality of the stop. To find out more about what a checkpoint arrest might mean to your case, read on.

Why Do the Circumstances Matter?

In law, a concept known as probable cause can affect the legality of many types of cases. Before that police officer in the patrol car hit the blue lights, they have to have a specific reason for doing so. The reason they have does not necessarily have to be the same thing you end up being arrested for, however. For example, if you have a light bulb missing and the patrol officer observes it, they have probable cause to make a stop. If they detect the odor of alcohol on your breath at that stop, they have probable cause to perform field sobriety testing. Checkpoints where cars are stopped and arrests are made seem to run counter to the above requirement for probable cause, but that might not necessarily be the case.

Is It Legal Everywhere?

Not all states allow DUI checkpoints to be used. Even if you are from one of those states where they are illegal, however, you can still be subject the laws of the state where you are operating a vehicle. Just because such stops are recognized by the state in question doesn't mean that all was done by the book. There are still laws and rules that have to be observed by law enforcement at a DUI checkpoint.

What Makes Probable Cause for a DUI Checkpoint?

Rather than having to show probable cause for each independent vehicle stop, DUI checkpoints are based on the probability that a driver will be impaired due to certain circumstances. Those circumstances might include the nearby location of a special event, such as a concert. Concerts bring more people to the area, could cause the area to experience more traffic and accidents, and could bring drivers to the area that could be under the influence. The probable cause then becomes a special event. This allows law enforcement to set up a checkpoint near the venue to stop drivers. There are other circumstances, like:

  1. A special time of the year, such as a holiday associated with drinking like New Year's Eve.
  2. A special time dedicated to cutting down on DUI accidents as proclaimed ahead of time.

What Makes a DUI Checkpoint Legal?

Other than the above issues, there are other rules that law enforcement have to follow to maintain legality at a checkpoint, such as:

  • Informing the public of the checkpoint ahead of time.
  • Making sure the area around the checkpoint is lighted (and they are almost always held at night) and marked with traffic cones, warning lights, and signs.
  • A set pattern of stops must be followed, it cannot be random or appear to target certain vehicles or people.

If you have been arrested at such a DUI checkpoint, the legality of it should be examined. Speak to a DUI attorney like those found at GLEN ALBRIGHT LAW to learn more.