St. Patrick’s Day is a time to celebrate… Ireland? Green? Leprechauns? Regardless of your reason for celebrating, a staple of the festivities will likely be alcohol. Drinking during St. Patty’s Day is a time-honored tradition, and no one knows that better than law enforcement. Read on to find out what to do if you are stopped at a checkpoint this holiday weekend.
Police Checkpoints: The Basics
The point of a checkpoint is to further enforce police efforts to catch drunk drivers. Generally, cars go through the checkpoint one at a time, and the officer will ask whether you’ve been drinking. If you say “no,” and they have no reason to suspect that you’re under the influence, you are free to go. However, if you answer “yes,” law enforcement will ask you to take a breathalyzer test or field sobriety tests to evaluate your physical state. Once the officer has sufficient evidence that you are under the influence, they can proceed with an arrest.
What Are My Rights at a DUI Checkpoint?
All drivers must stop at a DUI checkpoint and provide information upon the officer’s request. However, you do have rights if you are stopped at a checkpoint.
Most drivers roll down their window to speak to an approaching officer, but do you legally have to? If you are stopped at a checkpoint, you are not allowed to ignore the officer. You must provide documentation (license, registration, and insurance card) for inspection.
That said, many legal professionals argue that this obligation shouldn’t apply to DUI checkpoints because they operate without reasonable cause for criminal activity. In other words, law enforcement officers do not necessarily have a reason to stop you – they’re stopping you to find reasonable cause.
You can exercise your right to remain silent by attaching a notice to your window notifying the officer of your intent to avoid questioning. However, while you are within your rights to do so, this behavior is likely to seem more suspicious than rolling down your window. Always check with a lawyer before you choose to avoid questioning.
Similarly, field sobriety tests and breathalyzers are staples at DUI checkpoints, but that doesn’t mean you have to participate. However, this can get a little tricky because of implied consent laws. Essentially, this means that if you choose to drive, you are giving implied consent to chemical or alcohol testing if an officer has probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence. In Florida, refusing to take a field sobriety test or breathalyzer can result in a suspended license.
What to Do at a DUI Checkpoint
DUI Checkpoints are inevitable, so what can you do if you’re stopped on St. Patrick’s Day weekend?
- Follow instructions: If an officer asks for your license and registration, it’s best to hand them over. Refusing to provide proof of registration could cause the officer to question your sobriety and whether you are driving without a license.
- Remain as calm as possible: The whole point of a checkpoint is to look for suspicious behavior. If you display strange or extreme behavior or emotion during a checkpoint stop, the officer may ask you further questions and perform a field sobriety test. It’s easy to get in more trouble in these situations if the police decide to ask more questions.
- Call an attorney: DUIs are serious charges, and the court is not very forgiving in cases where drivers are under the influence. Knowing your rights is important, so you should call a lawyer as soon as possible to protect yourself.
St. Patrick’s Day is a fun holiday to celebrate with friends and family, but if you are unlucky enough to get caught drinking and driving, you could face serious consequences.
Schedule a free consultation with The Hoffman Firm for sound legal counsel backed by practical experience in and out of court.