Understanding Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint

Police DUI checkpoints seemingly go hand-in-hand with events that attract steady flows of traffic.

Getting excited about the big game, the start of a long holiday weekend, or any holiday season?  You best factor in enough time to make your way through a checkpoint as police look for impaired drivers.

Even if you’ve been through more than your fair share of DUI checkpoints, it makes good sense to know your legal rights if the police do not like what they see when you drive up.

What Is a DUI Checkpoint?

Also referred to as “sobriety checkpoints,” they are usually fixed roadway locations where police officers stop motorists to see if they’re driving impaired.

Usually, the officer will ask you a few questions before letting you continue on your way.

The officer will probably ask for your name, driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. While you’re obligated by law to answer those questions, you do not have to answer anything else – even if the officer persists.

What Should I Do If the Police Ask Me to Take a Field Sobriety or Breath Test?

Politely decline.

Even if you have not been drinking, there is nothing to gain and a whole lot to lose if you agree to take either of the tests.

For starters, breathalyzer tests are notorious for producing false-positive results. Your body chemistry and common medications can easily cause you to fail a breath test.

As for field sobriety tests, they too are unreliable.

The best part about these tests, however, is that your refusal to take them cannot be used against you later in court. Your driver’s license may be temporarily suspended, but a qualified DUI attorney should be able to have it returned to you rather quickly.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Georgia?

Yes, they are. The U.S. Supreme Court looked into the issue of DUI checkpoints in 1990.

During their consideration, the Justices homed in on how the checkpoints mesh with the Fourth Amendment. That amendment guarantees our rights against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement.

In their decision, the Justices essentially said that as long as the stop is “minimally intrusive,” it is constitutionally legal.

Can I Just Turn Around To Avoid A Georgia DUI Checkpoint?

Yes, you can. However, if you make an illegal U-turn or police suspect you’re turning around merely to avoid detection of DUI, they’ll likely pull you over anyway.

Can Police Put Up a DUI Checkpoint Anywhere?

In order for a DUI checkpoint to be legal, Georgia police must follow a strict policy.

All lawful DUI checkpoints must:

  • Be a component of an ongoing effort to combat impaired driving
  • Be in an area where’s there’s a specific need for a DUI checkpoint
    (for example, if there has been a number of DUI-related accidents in a specific location, police would probably be within their rights to setup a DUI checkpoint there)
  • Contain warning signs alerting drivers of the checkpoint
  • Be in a safe location
  • Have a noticeable police presence
  • Be supported by the local judicial offices.

If you’re arrested for DUI at a checkpoint, your charges could be dismissed altogether if your DUI attorney can prove any of the above requirements were not met.

What Should I Do at a DUI Checkpoint in Georgia?

The main thing is to stay as relaxed as possible. Keep your conversation with the officer limited to the initial questions asked.

Again, while you’re required to provide the officer with ID, your driver’s license, registration info and proof of insurance, that’s it. Say nothing more.

Some officers like to bully their way into searching your vehicle. Don’t let them search yours.

Another favorite tactic used by police is to lean their head into your vehicle and shine their flashlight around. Because they do not legally have the right to enter your vehicle at the checkpoint location, simply ask them to stop invading your space.

How Do I Fight an Arrest Made at a DUI Checkpoint?

Remember, being charged and being convicted are two completely different things. Plus, it’s far harder than you may think for the state to prove you were driving under the influence.

If you have been charged with DUI at a checkpoint, though, the first course of action is to hire a skilled DUI attorney.

With your legal representative in place, the next step is for your lawyer to obtain the packet of instructions police are required to keep when they establish a DUI checkpoint. If your lawyer can prove the checkpoint didn’t follow all the mandated rules, your charges could be dropped.

Other ways to challenge a DUI arrest made at a Georgia checkpoint include:

  • Determining if enough advance notice of the checkpoint was made to the public
  • Proving the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to detain you
  • Making note if all detained motorists were of a certain race, gender or age
  • Proving the checkpoint location was unsafe or if drivers were blocked from avoiding the checkpoint.

Again, the first step of your DUI defense strategy is to hire the DUI attorney best suited to represent you against the charges.

Because the Peach State has some of the toughest DUI penalties in the country, the investment is definitely worth it.

Yeargan & Kert, LLC
Atlanta DUI Lawyer
1170 Peachtree St NE #1200
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 467-1747