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What Are Your Rights When Stopped At A Sobriety Checkpoint?

In 2019, the state of Virginia saw 236 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, according to research provided by That same year, 20,402 people were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Virginia. Because of the frequency of DUIs in the state of Virgitia, law enforcement throughout the state often set up sobriety checkpoints in an attempt to identify and stop these drivers before they can endanger others. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of their legal rights when stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and may find themselves in legal trouble even if they are not under the influence of alcohol. If you have questions about your legal rights when stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, an experienced traffic attorney with Driving Defense Law may be able to assist you. Call (757) 929-0335 to discuss your legal rights. 

Are Sobriety Checkpoints Constitutional?

Many Americans feel that sobriety checkpoints violate their Fourth Amendment rights, and should be illegal. In fact, sobriety checkpoints have been challenged in the United States Supreme Court. As a result, in the case of Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, the Supreme Court determined that sobriety checkpoints meet the constitutional standard for a “reasonable search and seizure.”  

While these sobriety checkpoints are legal, they must also be established according to specific and detailed procedures. If a police officer fails to follow the procedure of a sobriety checkpoint, the validity of the checkpoint may be challenged by anyone that receives a DUI as a result. To be a valid and legal sobriety checkpoint, a checkpoint must have the following: 

  • Be set up in safe conditions
  • Show proper use of discretion
  • Have a roadblock plan designed, implemented, and supervised by senior officers
  • Have adequately trained officers staffing it
  • Be an effective checkpoint
  • Have a reasonable detention length

How Do You Avoid a DUI Checkpoint?

Even when they are not impaired by alcohol, sobriety checkpoints may make many drivers uncomfortable and nervous. In some cases, they may worry that symptoms of a medical condition, illness or physical limitations may be misinterpreted as signs of being alcohol-impaired. Under the law, there are instances where it is legal to avoid a sobriety checkpoint.

If there is another road before the checkpoint, drivers are free to make a legal turn onto that other road to go around the checkpoint. Drivers may also turn into a parking lot and make a legal turn back onto the road going in the opposite direction of the checkpoint. Additionally, all DUI checkpoints must be announced in advance, which means drivers can plan a route that allows them to avoid the checkpoint entirely. 

What Happens If You Turn Around at a Sobriety Checkpoint? 

While it is legal to avoid a sobriety checkpoint, it is important to do so carefully and only by taking legal actions to do so. Turning down another road before the checkpoint is an appropriate way to avoid a checkpoint. If drivers make a U-turn, speed away, or otherwise draw attention to themselves in an attempt to avoid a sobriety checkpoint, they will likely be pulled over. If the driver has committed a traffic violation in their attempt to turn around and avoid the checkpoint, they may be ticketed for the traffic violation, even if they are not driving under the influence. If you have received a ticket as a result of attempting to avoid a DUI checkpoint, an experienced  Driving Defense Law traffic attorney may be able to assist you. 

Do I Have To Show My License at a DUI Checkpoint?

Because a sobriety checkpoint is a legal traffic stop, it is also legal for a police officer to request a driver produce their driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. Drivers must produce these documents upon that request. 

While this is true throughout the state of Virginia, it is important to note that Virginia Beach has made it a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone to refuse to identify themselves or to provide false information to a law enforcement officer through Virginia Beach Ordinance § 23-7.1.

Do I Have To Participate in any Field Sobriety Tests or Breath Tests If Asked at a Sobriety Checkpoint?

While drivers do have to produce identification if asked by police officers, that is all that is legally required of them at a sobriety checkpoint. Drivers do not have to answer questions if they do not wish to do so. Drivers cannot be required to submit to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test or field sobriety test unless the police officer has reason to believe the driver is intoxicated. If there are no signs of impairment, it is illegal for law enforcement to make any driver submit to any type of testing. 

Even if there are indications of impairment, it is legal to refuse both a breath test and field sobriety tests if requested in the state of Virginia. These tests are used to create reasonable suspicion to arrest a driver for DUI. If a driver is arrested for DUI, a breath test is mandatory at that time and refusal may result in their license being suspended for a minimum of one year, per Virginia Code § 18.2-268.3.

Have You Been Charged With DUI as a Result of a DUI Checkpoint?

While sobriety checkpoints are generally legal, they are not infallible. Because every sobriety checkpoint is operated by humans who can make mistakes, it is possible to be charged with DUI when you are not impaired. Additionally, if the sobriety checkpoint is not properly set up or the police officer does not handle the arrest properly, the checkpoint and resulting DUI charge may be challenged. If you have been charged with DUI as a result of a sobriety checkpoint, our compassionate and experienced Virginia traffic attorneys with Driving Defense Law may be able to assist you. Call (757) 929-0335 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case and ensure your legal rights remain protected.