In addition to stopping you directly, law enforcement officers can arrest you for driving under the influence (DUI) at checkpoints. At these locations, the police set up roadblocks and direct traffic so they can stop drivers to check for intoxication. Although there are some states that have decided this practice is unconstitutional, DUI checkpoints are legal federally and in Arizona. If you are stopped at a checkpoint, it is important to know your rights and be prepared to handle the situation.
A DUI arrest can occur either at a sobriety checkpoint or during a standard traffic stop. Both types of stops require probable cause for the officer to actually arrest you. However, one of the differences is the role of reasonable suspicion.
Law enforcement can pull you over for a traffic stop if they have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a traffic violation. This may be for suspected DUI specifically, such as if they notice swerving or driving at an extremely slow speed. However, it could also be for unrelated reasons, as long as there is reasonable suspicion that there has been some sort of violation. After they stop you, they may notice signs of intoxication and investigate further with field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer.
At a DUI checkpoint, reasonable suspicion is not necessary to conduct a stop. The officers will either stop every car or will have a system, such as stopping every third car that comes through the checkpoint. Law enforcement cannot arbitrarily change the system they have in place, but they do not need a reason to stop any particular car.
Sobriety checkpoints must be clearly marked so you know that you will need to stop. As you enter the checkpoint, you should prepare your license and registration. The officer will ask for these if they stop you and they may misinterpret you looking for your documents as “fumbling” and use this as evidence of impairment.
It is essential that you remain calm, courteous, and professional. Do not complain, argue, or try to joke around with the officer. It is best to not give any information beyond what the officer is specifically asking you. If you have passengers, they should follow these steps as well. Law enforcement cannot question your passengers, but it is possible that the officer will try to start a conversation with them. Anything that either you or your passengers say can be used as evidence against you.
You should be aware of your rights at a DUI checkpoint and what you can and cannot refuse to provide to law enforcement. You must provide your license and registration. If the officer requests that you step out of your vehicle or pull to the side, you also need to comply. Under Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 28-1321, you must submit to blood alcohol content (BAC) testing if an officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are intoxicated. If you refuse, it will result in a license suspension.
In Arizona, field sobriety tests are not mandatory. You can politely refuse to undergo these tests. An officer can still arrest you if they have probable cause, but refusing a field sobriety test does not have any legal penalty. You have constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The officer may not search your car unless you consent, they have probable cause, or they have a warrant. If law enforcement asks to search your car at a DUI checkpoint, it is within your rights to respectfully refuse. However, you should never interfere if the officer starts a search anyway.
If you are facing DUI charges, you should call our criminal defense attorneys. We can go over the facts of your case and fight to achieve the best possible outcome.