DUI Checkpoints

While commonly seen during holiday periods such as Labor Day, 4th of July, Memorial Day, etc., DUI checkpoints are becoming more prevalent. If you are stopped as a result of a DUI checkpoint, there are variety of defenses that I use to combat your DUI. Sometimes, the checkpoint is illegal, because the officers conducting the checkpoint have not followed the procedure that the Supreme Court requires them to do. There have even been cases where the police have been caught lying, under oath, that they conducted a proper stop but after investigation by the attorney, the State Attorney’s office agrees that they are illegal. While not all cases will get dismissed like this, it is only after the attorney has done a proper investigation that you have a fighting chance. Do not assume that if you blew a really high amount and the checkpoint looked legitimate that the case can’t still be fought. They can and should be fought, and our office has tackled many of these types of cases.

Recently, a lot of attention has been brought to the fore by my colleague Warren Redlich of Boca Raton, FL. They have pointed out what I have mentioned several times, in that what the police are allowed to do at DUI checkpoints is limited and the Youtube videos point out what should be considered legal in Florida based on Florida law today. One thing that these videos point out by many commenters is that despite some opposition from police groups, it cannot be denied that most people hate checkpoints. They even hate checkpoints if they feel it serves a noble purpose. What else has come to light is that people are realizing that the police actually do arrest innocent people. These videos, and what I have always advised my clients is that they should be educated on the law. What is really amazing is that the Sheriffs of Lee, Pinellas and St. Johns County have all said they'll arrest anyone who tries this. For what? For asserting your constitutional rights? If they have someone in custody and the accused invokes their 5th and 6th Amendment rights to remain silent and have an attorney, they're supposed to stop all questioning. The same applies at a checkpoint, in my opinion, and I will stand with you to challenge this.

Additionally, there is no valid argument that we have to hand over the license, not merely show it through the window. Why? You can see in the various videos that the officers are able to get what they need through the glass. The statute, as reworded, now says "present or submit" instead of "display". The language was changed because of smartphone licenses, not because of these videos. There's no definition of those terms in the statutes. "Show" is a valid definition of present. I will make the officer articulate why he needed to hold the license in his hand. I am prepared to litigate these and all other issues when it comes to DUI checkpoints.

Although, all citizens have a right to be concerned about drunk drivers on the road, it is crucial that the police not overstep their bounds as limited by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The Supreme Court has allowed police to randomly pull cars over and check for drunk drivers. However, there must be a balance between protecting the public and the personal freedoms and rights of the people. This is why rules have been laid out for any checkpoint, including DUI checkpoints, ever since 1990 when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed checkpoints. Among the factors which are to be considered are:

(1) the degree of discretion, if any, left to the officer in the field; (2) the location designated for the roadblock; (3) the time and duration of the roadblock; (4) standards set by superior officers; (5) advance notice to the public at large; (6) advance warning to the individual approaching motorists; (7) maintenance of safety conditions; (8) degree of fear or anxiety generated by the mode of operation; (9) average length of time each motorist is detained; (10) physical factors surrounding the location, type and method of operation; (11) the availability of less intrusive methods for combating the problem; (12) the degree of effectiveness of the procedure; (13) any other relevant circumstances which might bear on the test.

The Supreme Court put limitations on the police so that they don’t abuse their power, or use it in a discriminatory manner. In other words, a specific operational plan must be followed and if it isn’t, then the case may be able to be dismissed.

Remember you have the same rights at a DUI checkpoint as you would any other traffic stop. This means you have the right to remain silent, the right to refuse field sobriety test, or the right to refuse a breath test. Of course there may be additional ramifications and you may want to waive those rights in some circumstances (except for your right to remain silent which should ALWAYS be invoked). Additionally, while you do not have the right to have an attorney present at the scene, once you are arrested, you should request to speak to an attorney.

If you have been charged with a DUI as a result of a DUI checkpoint, then call my office for a free consultation so that we can discuss ways to either minimize or possibly dismiss the DUI charge against you.

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