sobriety checkpoint sign
Yep, the holidays are here and the time is right for dancin’ in the streets. The thing is there are cool ways to party and not so cool ways to party. With the changing of the seasons rapidly approaching, we thought it prudent to remind you once again of the lunacy of drinking and driving.
In addition to the damage you could cause, the likelihood of being caught at police checkpoints has risen significantly. The efficacy of this method of enforcing drinking and driving laws has proven quite substantial. Now before go any farther, we hasten to add if you have been drinking and you’re driving a car, you most assuredly deserve to experience the consequences. But others don’t deserve to have your consequences imposed upon them.
One more thing, we aren’t lawyers, and none of this is to be construed as legal advice. These are just a few common sense tips to help you avoid trouble.
Let’s say you’re a police officer and you're out looking for people who may be driving intoxicated. Along comes a guy who thinks he’s a comedian—you’re going to take a closer look at him, right? Telling stupid jokes, or giving the officers any reason to look at you more than once, is handing them an open invitation to ask you to step out of the car and perform a few simple tests to see if you indeed are sober. Heaven forbid your balance is off for whatever reason and you inadvertently fail a field sobriety test, or have just ingested anything that might cause you to “blow” (quite literally) the breathalyzer test. You’re going to feel like an idiot on your way to jail, when all you had to do was shut up and take the situation seriously.
Before you roll into the police checkpoint, make sure all of your car’s essential systems are working. Further, it will likely be nighttime, so make sure your headlights are on, and regardless of the time, make sure you’re wearing your seatbelt. Do a mental double-check to ensure your driver’s license is with you, and your insurance and registration are up to date. If you’re supposed to be wearing glasses, you’d best make sure you have them on. If you have any illegal items in your possession, make 100 percent sure they are not readily visible to anyone peering into your car from the driver’s window. An officer can only cite you based upon what they can see out in the open—unless you give them a compelling reason to believe you should be asked to get out of the car and submit to a more thorough investigation.
Yes, this is America, and yes, you are endowed by your creator with certain inalienable rights—among them life, liberty, and yada, yada, yada. However, if you roll into the DUI checkpoint with an attitude and commence to vociferously citing your rights and refusing to cooperate, you are, in all probability setting yourself up for a more thorough examination. The thing you want to do here is ensure your interaction with the officer is as brief as possible. Rather than getting all up in arms about how your rights are being violated, just chill and work with the officers, and you will probably be sent on your way just the same. If you say more than needs to be said, you are inviting a longer conversation. And, the longer the conversation you have, the more opportunities you give the checkpoint officers to find something to cite you for.
This one kind of dovetails into making sure you have all your shirt together. While sobriety checkpoints are established ostensibly for making sure the motoring public is driving sober, officers at the checkpoints are also looking for other violations (and violators). Expired registration, outstanding warrants, escaped felons; the list goes on, and on, and on. Before you roll into the checkpoint, if you have other people in the car with you, check with them to be sure they are all as clean as possible, too. If one of your friends has been recently featured on America’s Most Wanted, and they’re sitting beside you in the car—your evening is going to turn out considerably different than you’d planned when you left the pad—OK?
Let’s say you’ve inadvertently committed an egregious offense against one of the occupants in your car, and the two of you are in a rather heated conversation about it as you glide to a stop at the checkpoint. You know your friends and/or significant other far better than we do—if you think there is any possibility this person might take advantage of the situation to extract their vengeance, you might want to either avoid going through the checkpoint or apologize very quickly and convincingly. All you need is for the other person to scream to the officer you’re drunk, or in violation of some other law and, well— there you go.
It is absolutely within your rights to refuse to take a breathalyzer test at a sobriety checkpoint. However, if you refuse the breathalyzer, you’ll be asked to take a field sobriety test. Now here’s the thing, you can refuse the field sobriety test, too. But if you do, you’ll almost assuredly be arrested. Once you're in jail, you’ll be compelled to take either a breath test or a blood test. Thing is, the breath test and blood tests are more accurate than the field breath test, so if you’ve got something that might be mistaken for alcohol, the test at the station will more likely give you a better outcome. However, if you do get arrested, insist on having a lawyer present before taking either one.