You are on your way home after having dinner and drinks with an old high school friend. As you are driving down the road you come upon a line of cars and uniformed police officers. You have just found yourself in the middle of a sobriety checkpoint.
What Is A Sobriety Checkpoint?
Roadblock. Road safety checkpoint. Sobriety checkpoint. All three mean the same thing. Uniformed police officers set up a roadblock and check the drivers of the vehicles coming through. Most times they will ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance.
The state of Georgia has approved roadblocks for the following reasons:
- Sobriety Checkpoints-Removing drunk or impaired drivers from the road
- Verifying driver’s license and registrations are valid
- Violation of seatbelt laws
- Vehicles that are unsafe and should not be on the roadway
- Violation of traffic laws
- The capturing of a criminal who is on the run and it is suspected that they will take that route
- The prevention of an imminent terrorist attack
- The interception of illegal aliens
There are certain criteria that must be followed for a roadblock to be considered constitutional
When stopping cars in a roadblock or sobriety checkpoint, the officers must stop all cars. They cannot check every other car, or every fifth car, it must be every car coming through the checkpoint.
The only stipulation to this is if traffic has become backed up, the officers may let the cars go through without stopping any of them for a predetermined and approved period of time.
When that time is up, the searches can commence again, but every car must be checked from that point on. The checkpoints should never interrupt the flow of traffic.
Roadblocks and Their Constitutionality
At a glance, someone would think that a roadblock or sobriety checkpoint is in violation of our fourth amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizure.
If you feel like your rights have been violated and you are charged with a DUI because of it, call an Athens DUI lawyer right away.
This has been brought in front of the highest courts in Georgia, who have determined constitutionality criteria. In order for a roadblock or sobriety checkpoint to be considered constitutional it must:
- Been approved by a supervisor and serve a legitimate purpose. These checkpoints cannot be randomly put up by local law enforcement moving on their own instincts.
- All vehicles must be stopped. Picking and choosing vehicles to check and drivers to question is not allowed.
- Keep traffic moving through the checkpoint with as little delay as possible.
- The checkpoint itself must be clearly identifiable as a police checkpoint. The officers must be in uniform and their vehicles visible. Lack to do so can be considered entrapment.
- The officers who are running the checkpoint must be trained to administer field sobriety tests. They must also be trained to identify the signs of someone driving under the influence so that there is probable cause to remove the driver from the vehicle.
Can You Evade A Roadblock?
The short answer to this is yes, but there are some things that you need to keep in mind. There have been several cases that have been tried against DUI charges where someone tried to evade a roadblock or sobriety checkpoint.
Evading will give officers more cause to pull you over.
In one instance, the man turned into a drive and then backed back out into traffic using improper driving techniques. This was witnessed by one of the police officers who was conducting the checkpoint. He got into his patrol car and pursued the man and pulled him over.
He charged him with a DUI after smelling the alcohol coming from the car. Unfortunately, it was the unsafe driving that gave the officer the reason to pull him over. It was not the evasive behavior he exhibited.
In another instance, a car approached a checkpoint that was positioned near an apartment complex. When the police officer noticed a car abruptly turn into the parking lot of the apartment complex, he pursued the man and pulled him over. The reasoning that the officer gave was that it was on his intuition that the man was evading the checkpoint.
In court, it was found that the officer could not pull him over or arrest him. Nothing in the car was admissible because the officer did not have grounds to pull him over.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are being charged with a DUI during a routine checkpoint search, contact an Athens DUI attorney to represent you.