You’re driving along. Minding your own business. Maybe you’ve been drinking, maybe you haven’t. Then you see signs warning you of an upcoming DUI Checkpoint. Probably at that point you see off in the distance floodlights, police cars with their lights on, and cones that will eventually force you to stop in front of an officer.
You don’t have to go through that checkpoint. There is no law that says you cannot intentionally avoid a checkpoint. In the real world, however, it’s important to note that you avoiding the checkpoint may cause attention to be placed on you. If you do not violate any traffic rules, you should be fine. If you pull a U-turn across a double yellow and speed away from the checkpoint, you may be pulled over by someone at the checkpoint, or they may radio to someone to detain you. If you can legally turn off the road or legally turn around, you shouldn’t be bothered though.
Warning: False Drug Checkpoints Ahead
An interesting phenomenon in the Midwest states on the subject of checkpoints is false drug checkpoints. Unlike DUI checkpoints, which are legal on public policy grounds, drug checkpoints are not legal. This was made explicitly clear in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond (2000) 531 U.S. 32. There cannot be a checkpoint for anything other than border security or removing drunk drivers from roads. However, what some police agencies are doing to get around this is they don’t actually have a drug checkpoint. They just tell you that they are having one. They post signs that say things like, “drug checkpoint ahead: K9 unit in use”. Then they wait.
They watch along the side of the road or at an overpass. They wait to see who pulls off the road and throw something out of the window. Or the person that gets off the freeway at a rest stop and throws something away in the trash can. They then approach. In some situations, they can argue that your behavior is reasonable suspicion that you have committed a criminal offense, and then they detain you. The legality of these stops are based on a case by case basis, and some of the cases would get dismissed if they didn’t have enough information to truly believe you were breaking the law.
In other cases the officers will just stop and ask you if they can search your car. This based upon the notion that you’re avoiding the checkpoint (which doesn’t exist ironically) and thus you might have drugs. Word of advice, don’t consent to searches of your person or belongings.
If you see a sign that says drug checkpoint ahead, don’t panic. They are trying to make you panic and make a mistake. Keep calm, know that legally they cannot have a drug checkpoint, and keep driving safely.