It’s late at night. You’re driving home from a get-together at a friend’s house and come across a roadblock—a checkpoint where the police are on the lookout for drunk drivers. You’re stopped, tested, and arrested for DUI. Is this even constitutional?
DUI checkpoints, also referred to as sobriety roadblocks or sobriety checkpoints, have been the subject a great deal of scrutiny over the years, specifically regarding whether they violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures.
At first, the Michigan Supreme Court found DUI checkpoints to be unconstitutional. Then, in a 1990 decision in Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, the U.S. Supreme Court found that sobriety checkpoints were constitutional—if they were properly conducted. Since then, 10 states have found DUI checkpoints to be in violation of their state constitutions and have banned them.
Florida is not one of these states.
In Florida, DUI checkpoints are considered constitutional if they are carried out in a specific way:
- They must be conducted based on preset guidelines.
- They must be announced ahead of time.
- Stops must be based on random criteria, such as every fourth vehicle.
- Stops must be reasonably short in duration.
If you are the driver of a vehicle picked at random at a DUI checkpoint in the Tampa area, you must stop and comply with the officer’s instructions, such as providing your license and registration. You do not have to answer additional questions and have the right to refuse field sobriety tests (roadside tests used to see whether your abilities are impaired), but refusing such tests can have other consequences.
If you refuse roadside testing, the officer may suspect that you’ve been drinking and may ask you to perform a breathalyzer test. If you’re taken into custody and refuse a breath test, you could face the suspension of your license and a separate charge—under implied consent laws.
Click here to learn more about implied consent and the consequences of refusing a test.
Don’t Try to Avoid a Sobriety Checkpoint
If you come across a sobriety checkpoint, do not turn your vehicle around and try to avoid it. The police are looking for this type of behavior and will most likely pull you over. Instead, stay calm and proceed through the checkpoint. If you’re stopped, politely comply with the officer’s instructions, but remember that you have the right to refuse field sobriety testing and additional questioning.
You Have the Right to Legal Counsel
If you’re arrested after a checkpoint stop, this does not mean that you’ll be convicted—or even that you’ll be formally charged. Talk to an attorney as soon as possible to find out what steps can be taken to protect your license and your freedom.
At Thomas & Paulk, we’ve fought for countless drivers throughout the Tampa area and across Florida. We know how to represent your rights at your DMV hearing and in criminal court, and we know exactly what types of issues and behavior to look for in challenging sobriety checkpoint arrests. Your case is in good hands at our Tampa DUI defense firm.
Call (813) 321-7323 today or fill out our online contact form to find out more about the ways we can help you.