Despite the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that DUI checkpoints do not count as a violation of a person’s fourth amendment rights, the legality of these checkpoints has been constantly challenged by drivers, attorneys, and privacy advocates since the ruling. Earlier this year, Florida attorney Warren Redlich gained some attention after creating the fair DUI flyer, which provides a legal method of getting through a DUI checkpoint by without speaking to the police or even opening the window. According to Redlich, aside from the clear violation of protection from unlawful search and probable cause, it can have unfair consequences for innocent people. For example, in 2013, a sober driver in Arizona was pulled over and charged with DUI even after the breathalyzer revealed a BAC of 0.00.
Although the flyer worked successfully in the video he posted last year, Redlich cautions that it does not work in every instance or state, depending on the law. For example, in California, V. C. Section 2814.2 states that drivers must stop and “submit” to a sobriety checkpoint inspection when there are displays requiring a stop, but doesn’t elaborate on whether showing a license through the window qualifies as compliance. Therefore, with the complexity of the law and lack of consistency when it comes to DUI checkpoints, what rights do drivers have when they get pulled over?
In most cases, an officer needs reasonable cause to pull you over, such as reckless driving behavior or a broken taillight, but DUI checkpoints are an exception to that rule as stated above. Once you have been pulled over or approach a checkpoint, an officer may start asking you questions. According to criminal lawyer George Gedulin in San Diego, while you may not be legally required to answer these questions, not complying may lead to even further evaluation or even arrest. If you suspect that you are over the legal limit, it is far better to say nothing than lie because it can be used against you later in court.
The officer may ask you to step out of the vehicle for a field sobriety test, but you are not required to take any field test. Not taking a field test may lead to an arrest; but again, it could also save you from incriminating evidence down the road. Officers are also prohibited from searching your vehicle, but any shady activity may give them reasonable suspicion to pat you down or inspect your car. If you do refuse to take a test and are arrested, even an affirmative blood test may not be enough evidence to secure a DUI conviction because any mistake that either law enforcement or forensic analysts make can impact the credibility of evidence.
While DUI checkpoints advocate for a noble cause, it’s easy to see how invasive they can be, especially if you have done nothing wrong. Compounded with loose definitions of what constitutes probable cause, reasonable suspicion, and lawful search, an officer can seemingly overstep their bounds at will. If you or a loved one has been arrested on suspicion of DUI, be sure to contact an attorney who can protect your rights under the law.