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 subject to 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. Essentially, it states that law enforcement personnel must have probable cause or a warrant to search a person or their property or to make an arrest. DUI checkpoints put drivers in situations where they may be stopped and questioned even if they were not showing behavior that could indicate drunk driving – one of the primary ways to establish probable cause before a DUI stop and arrest.
DUI checkpoints first became common in the U.S. in the 1980s. Their constitutionality soon came under fire, but 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, 11 states have found DUI checkpoints to be in violation of their state constitutions and have banned them.
Florida is not one of these states.
Rules for Florida DUI Checkpoints
In Florida, DUI checkpoints are considered constitutional only 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 a random pattern or criteria, such as every fourth vehicle.
- Stops must be reasonably short in duration.
If you were stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Florida and believe that the checkpoint was not managed properly or that your rights were violated, we want to hear from you. At Thomas & Paulk, we’ve been representing drivers like you for the past 20 years. We know how sobriety checkpoints are supposed to be conducted, and we know how to spot violations. Our Tampa DUI attorneys can offer insight into your options after an unconstitutional stop or arrest.
What to Do at a DUI Checkpoint
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.
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 a Tampa DUI Lawyer
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. Listen to your Miranda rights as they are read to you. You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. 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, like surprise checkpoints, racial profiling, and illegal searches. 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.