Friday, December 11, 2009

'Tis the Season...For DUI Checkpoints

The holiday season means celebration, and law enforcement knows celebration means alcohol consumption. In addition to mid-summer, this is the most common time of year to encounter DUI checkpoints run by state and local law enforcement. The purpose of the checkpoints is to enforce basic traffic laws like ensuring drivers are licensed and vehicles registered and insured, and also to verify that people on the road are driving sober.

Such checkpoints are constitutional, provided they comply with certain guidelines. The means for selecting which vehicles are stopped and checked cannot be arbitrary (i.e. you cannot be selected because of the way you look or the type of vehicle you are driving)...either all vehicles entering the checkpoint must be contacted or they must be selected entirely at random, such as every third vehicle. The checkpoints must be posted so drivers receive notice before they enter the contact zone, and there must be an available route for drivers to detour if they do not wish to proceed through the checkpoint. Of course, these detour routes are also watched by law enforcement and any sign of impairment of the driver (such as weaving, driving excessively slow, slowing or stopping abruptly, etc.) will very likely result in a traffic stop.

If you are contacted during the course of one of these checkpoints, keep in mind that you have the same rights as with any other traffic stop. That means you do not have to make any statement or answer any questions, nor do you have to participate in any roadside sobriety testing. You are required, if requested, to provide your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance. Also keep in mind that if an officer has probable cause to believe you are impaired and requests that you take a test, you have a choice between blood or breath. If you take a blood test, a second sample of your blood must be preserved for independent testing at your request, while no such sample of your breath will be preserved in a breath test. Refusal to take a test or failure to complete a test will result in a one-year revocation of your driver's license with no eligibility for a probationary or restricted license.

Please remember to drive safely and soberly this holiday season, and have a healthy and prosperous New Year!