One evening after returning home from a restaurant where you may have had several glasses of wine or beer, you see a line of cars ahead. As your vehicle inches closer, you notice several police cars and an officer stopping certain cars and questioning the driver. You realize that this is a DUI checkpoint, and that you risk being stopped and questioned. What should you if your car is stopped, and what should you know about DUI checkpoints?
- DUI checkpoints are legal in Massachusetts and the courts have determined their function as a means of protecting the public from impaired motorists, so long as the stops are not unnecessarily intrusive or inconvenient to motorists and their rights are protected.
- If stopped, you are obligated to present your driver’s license, registration, and insurance information to the officer. The officer is also allowed to observe you for signs of impairment but you are under no obligation to answer any questions and may politely decline to respond to any.
- DUI checkpoints are only permitted pursuant to carefully prescribed criteria:
- The checkpoint must be clearly marked
- The selection of vehicles to be stopped must not be arbitrary—for instance, every 4th car is stopped
- There must be a previously devised plan in place with standard, neutral guidelines that forbids the arbitrary selection of vehicles. The selection cannot be determined by the officers at the checkpoint or suddenly changed by them at their discretion. Also, all procedures must strictly comply with the plan
- A law enforcement supervisor must be present
- The checkpoint must be in a “problem area” or where a large number of DUI arrests or accidents have occurred
- An alternate route must be available to avoid the stop
- There must have been advance public notice of the county and time of day of the checkpoint
- Should you be asked to exit your car and perform field sobriety tests, you are under no obligation to do so. Though this may aggravate the officer, it does not give him or her any additional evidence against you. There are no penalties for refusing to perform any field sobriety tests or to take the PBT, a preliminary breath test device. Your refusal cannot be used against you or as a legal presumption of guilt.
- Do not consent to any searches of your car and make this clear to the officer.
- If you decide to avoid the checkpoint by turning around, try to do so before you see any cones on the roadway. Nevertheless, it is possible that a police car will follow you anyway on the assumption you are doing so because you are impaired. Do not violate any traffic laws and follow the recommendations above regarding not answering questions, not submitting to any pre-arrest tests, and not consenting to any searches.
- You can still be arrested and charged with DUI even if you refused to answer any questions or to perform any pre-arrest tests such as field sobriety tests. If you refuse to take the breathalyzer, you are subject to the RMV suspending your driver’s license for 180-days for a first offense.
If you were arrested and charged with a DUI after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint, immediately call DUI defense lawyer Paul Moraski at (978) 397-0011 for a free consultation. Once retained, our office will promptly obtain all documents relating to the checkpoint, investigate to see if all procedures comported with the law, and examine any other circumstances of your arrest in order to form a defense strategy for your case.