Even with fewer drivers on the road, alcohol is the leading cause of traffic fatalities. Every year, we lose over 10,000 people to drunk driving.
One way to combat drunk driving is to use DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints. Unfortunately, these checkpoints can be very stressful. If you’re not sure how to behave, you can easily incriminate yourself.
Want to prepare for encountering a Florida DUI checkpoint? Here’s all you need to know about what to expect and how to protect your rights.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
Some states lack the statutory authority to conduct DUI checkpoints. That said, Florida is on the list of 38 states where these checkpoints are legal.
According to the GHSA, there are about 15 to 20 DUI checkpoints set up in Florida each month. Some of these checkpoints are permanently manned. Others are set up in random locations, usually in high-risk areas.
It’s important to remember that DUI checkpoints serve a valuable purpose. Still, the officer conducting them may violate your constitutional rights. If you believe this is the case, contact a professional Florida DUI lawyer.
DUI Checkpoint Laws
Not sure which procedures officers must follow while manning a DUI checkpoint in Florida? Here are three common examples.
The Three-Minute Rule
As the name implies, Florida officers can’t detain a motorist at a sobriety checkpoint for more than three minutes. If they determine probable cause, however, they can keep a vehicle for much longer.
If a stop takes longer than three minutes without cause, the officer must suspend the diversion of vehicles. A checkpoint may also be unreasonable if it ends up holding up upcoming traffic.
Law enforcement agencies must provide information about any scheduled DUI checkpoints. If you don’t want to deal with this inconvenience, you can simply avoid those areas. This information is available at DUIBlock.
Determining the DUI Formula
Officers must determine the procedure for pulling drivers over before establishing the checkpoint. Their selection must be fair and random. For example, they may decide to pull over every third car passing through.
Avoiding the Checkpoint
A DUI checkpoint is legal, but avoiding it is legal as well. If an officer doesn’t have probable cause, they can’t pull you over for avoiding a checkpoint.
Doing this is easier than it may seem. According to Florida law, officers must set up signs that warn drivers of the checkpoint. Once you see these signs, you can make legal traffic maneuvers to turn around.
Sometimes, though, there will be no legal way to avoid a checkpoint. In this situation, your best option is to go through it. Making an illegal U-turn to avoid a checkpoint will likely result in getting pulled over.
A DUI checkpoint starts like any other traffic stop you’ll encounter. An officer will ask you to pull to the side and provide identification.
At this point, the officer will ask you some questions. Depending on your answers and behavior, they may find probable cause to investigate further. Not having the necessary documents may also nudge them in this direction.
What you may not know is that you don’t have to answer these questions. Instead, you can say that you don’t wish to say more without an attorney present. You can also show them your “Know Your Rights” card.
Some drivers keep their windows rolled up at checkpoints and don’t interact at all. Though this is legal, it’s not the best course of action. By being polite, you can make sure an officer won’t mistake your silence for non-compliance.
Consenting to Tests
Regardless of whether you talk to them, the officer may believe you’re driving under the influence. If so, they can ask you to perform some tests.
Field Sobriety Test
The first test you’ll need to perform is the field sobriety test. That involves doing a series of three field sobriety exercises (FSEs):
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (Follow-the-Pen)
- One-Leg Stand
A field sobriety test can be a double-edged sword. If you haven’t consumed any alcohol, it may be wise to take part in it. That said, many sober drivers find it hard to perform this test while facing arrest.
Of course, you also have the right to refuse to take part in the test. Many officers will neglect to mention this option while making their requests. Doing so, however, may give the officers probable cause to do a chemical test.
Chemical testing may involve a breathalyzer or blood test. Under Florida’s implied consent law, you can’t refuse a chemical test. Doing so is a misdemeanor offense and makes you subject to the following penalties:
- 12-month license suspension for a first-time refusal
- 18-month license suspension for a previous refusal
Keep in mind that a breathalyzer test can be wrong. Many factors can cause a positive reading, from poor calibration to certain medical conditions. Blood tests tend to be more accurate, but they aren’t used as often.
Protecting Your Rights
Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, DUI checkpoints can be intimidating. If you’re charged with a DUI, though, it’s essential to protect your rights.
First, keep in mind that getting arrested for a DUI in Florida can lead to severe penalties. Many of these penalties have long-term implications. That’s particularly true for pilots and other specific professions.
If you’re arrested at a DUI checkpoint, it’s in your best interest to talk to a DUI lawyer right away. In fact, you should contact a lawyer as soon as you’re pulled over. That’s the easiest way to ensure you’re treated fairly.
A DUI lawyer can do a lot for your case. They’ll request the police report from your arrest, which can impact your defense. They can also ensure that the officers used the appropriate checkpoint procedures.
This Is What to Do at a DUI Checkpoint
As you can see, there are many things you should keep in mind if you’re stopped at a DUI checkpoint. If you ever need a refresher on what to do in this situation, this guide is the perfect starting point!
Were you arrested for a DUI in Florida? If so, our experienced DUI attorneys will do everything they can to mitigate the impact of these charges. Contact us here to learn more about your legal options!
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