Drunk driving or driving under the influence is never a good idea. It's a preventable action that can save many lives by acting responsibly and also save the possible offender a disastrous hassle of legal and social problems down the road. 1/3 of traffic fatalities involve alcohol impairment, with over 10,000 people dying from such each year. The costs alone associated with this run at about 44 billion dollars annually.
On the upside, drunk driving fatalities have decreased by 1/3 in the last 3 decades. Groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and Teens Against Drunk Driving have been actively working on stopping drunk driving along with preventing underage drinking and supporting victims of these crimes. As the fines and penalties became harsher for cracking down on such a grave issue, one deterrent that also arose was DUI checkpoints.
In 1986 Michigan State Police announced the new strategy of DUI checkpoints as a way to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road. One Michigan resident fought back as the law being unconstitutional until it reached the Supreme Court in 1990. The ruling passed stating that the compelling interest in eradicating drunk driving and public safety outweighed any concerns about "intrusion" into drivers' privacy.
While federal law condones these checkpoints for the purpose of maintaining safer roadways, it's actually up to the states to decide whether to use them. In fact, 10 states have deemed DUI checkpoints illegal and are not permitted to conduct them. These include ID, IA, MI, MN, OR, RI, TX, WA, WI, and WY.
What are DUI Checkpoints?
Most people are familiar with their state's drunk driving laws and penalties that ensue, but DUI checkpoints might not be so clear. If you live in one of the aforementioned states above, this is of no real concern to you. If you don't, or even if you do but travel across state borders, it's important to know what they are, how the authorities conduct them, how to conduct yourself, and, if possible, avoid them altogether.
With the exception of Georgia, the law requires all states that administer DUI checkpoints announce them through a newspaper or online post. This was in accordance to the Supreme Court 1990 ruling, so as not to be considered a detention without reasonable suspicion, which would violate your fourth amendment rights. If members of the public are aware of the checkpoint, they have the option of avoiding it. If you choose not to, then they consent to the minimal intrusion that follows. Checkpoints must follow certain requirements in order to be deemed valid.
/dui-checkpoints/Every state will have its own set of standards, but what's typically involved includes background checks for warrants, verifying a valid driver's license, and determining if you're under the influence of alcohol or possibly other drugs. They cannot require you to consent to a vehicle search in order to make it through the checkpoint. Failure for law enforcement to comply with state requirements can work in your favor by having evidence against you suppressed, resulting in the case being dropped or dismissed.
What to Do if Encountered
Even when no law is being broken, most people have a penchant for getting nervous when being stopped or questioned by law enforcement. Coming across as an unknown power while some abuse it, there's a natural fear of police which for some turns to hatred. Knowing your rights and standing up for them can lessen or eliminate wrongful procedure on the officer's part and keep you away from wrongful convictions or costly, lengthy trials and jail time.
Whether you've intentionally gone through DUI checkpoints because you didn't want the hassle of rerouting to your destination, or you were oblivious to the fact you actively entered one, you have certain rights worth knowing in how to handle your situation.
According to some attorneys and what's referred to as the Fair DUI Flyer, there's a legal loophole which can safely and effectively get you through a checkpoint without having to open your car window or speaking to the officer. Stated on the flyer are your rights to remain silent, no searches, your ability to contact your lawyer, and a few other statutes stating your legal rights in this scenario. Warren Redlich is a Florida attorney behind these fliers and a big advocate of protecting people's rights and helping those to avoid repercussions of fallacious cops.
By presenting the flyer along with the proper identification and information to the presiding law enforcement, you are complying with the law while simultaneously protecting your rights. A valid driver's license, registration, and insurance are what's required of you at these checkpoints. There are two ways in which to provide your information: have all the needed documents along with the flier contained in a clear plastic bag hung outside your window, or press the items as needed up against the window for the officer to see. There are a few YouTube videos such as this one where you can see this method being put to the test.
The purpose of presenting yourself in this manner isn't to try to circumvent a possible DUI you might be guilty of. The purpose of this method is to know that you, as an innocent party, are avoiding any problematic issues that may arise with a potential abuse of power. In fact, it's only recommended to those with a squeaky clean record and no probable legal issues to pursue this method, as you might be more likely to be put under the officers' radar.
How to Spot One Before It's Too Late
You're not legally required to go through DUI checkpoints even once you've spotted it up ahead. Be cautious as the checkpoint could appear as a construction zone with orange road cones and flashing lights. Once you've determined you're coming up to a checkpoint, you are legally within your rights to turn around either onto another road or by executing a legal U-turn to head back in the direction from which you came. The important aspect regarding this is in following the law.
Use the proper turn signals, maintain the posted speed, and observe all other traffic laws in doing so, otherwise, you give reason to be pulled over, and with that, a flyer method is no longer an option. Also, you will be scrutinized in avoiding a checkpoint, so it's equally important to maintain lawful driving. Speeding through a checkpoint to avoid being stopped will also result in being pulled over as well.
Another option that's even more proactive in helping you to avoid a checkpoint is downloading an app for your phone designed to warn you of one up ahead. Apps such as Mr. Checkpoint among a few others also contain additional features such as alerting you to speed traps, dangerous curves and intersections, and how to properly deal with the situation in a checkpoint. However, it's important to point out that these apps aren't 100% foolproof. Some checkpoints can possibly escape their radar.
Law enforcement is a public service created out of the necessity to serve and protect a civilized society from chaos, unlawfulness, and disorder. Somehow it doesn't always work in our favor the way it should, and we need to be proactive in knowing and asserting our rights as taxpaying citizens. You have every right in wanting to avoid unnecessary scrutiny when you're a law-abiding citizen, and you shouldn't face persecution or adversity in doing so. There have been too many unfortunate incidents with innocent individuals facing hardship and ruin due to an abuse of power or a faulty court system.
By initially avoiding these sorts of situations, not only are you exercising your rights, but you're also maintaining your freedom to move about freely without harassment. If you find yourself in an unfortunate situation where you feel wronged, seek out the proper resources immediately and document your experience with cell phone video if at all possible.
Drinking and driving is a serious matter that still exists in too great of numbers, and we should all encourage the ongoing crackdown against it. It's in the best interest of not only you, but your family and friends, and the society surrounding you to make the right decisions when it comes to being safe behind the wheel. Safe and lawful actions on your part save lives and knowing your rights keeps yours flowing a bit smoother.