How to Safely Move Through a Police Checkpoint

Posted on Jun 30, 2016 in Criminal Defense

Typically, when a person gets behind the wheel of an automobile, he or she usually has a fixed destination. Sometimes, you may be in a hurry, hoping to arrive quickly. But even when taking a leisurely drive, chances are that you do not want to run into any sort of delay.

Traffic from vehicle accidents is often an issue when drivers are trying to get where they need to be. Detours and construction are other possible obstacles. Typically, if you know the roads you will be driving, you can plan ahead to allow time for these situations.

However, one type of obstacle you may not be expecting is a police checkpoint. Checkpoints are often in place where you least expect them, requiring you to pass through if you choose to continue on a given road. Typically, law enforcement is present to monitor the sobriety of drivers and the legality of the contents in plain view inside the car.

Should a driver appear intoxicated, or if illegal substances appear to be present, the police will usually ask the driver to pull off to the side so that other cars can pass through.  But when discussing checkpoints, the question of legality often arises. Are checkpoints legal? Should they be allowed to continue?

As a New Orleans criminal defense law firm, we have ample experience with clients who have been arrested at a police checkpoint and believe it may be helpful to explain what recourse you have if you are arrested or detained in such situations.

Know Your Legal Rights

A Michigan case sheds more light on the many issues that must be considered when approaching a police checkpoint.

First, it is important to remember that, upon seeing a roadblock ahead, a driver may choose to turn around and take a different route — one that is not being blocked by a police checkpoint. However, should you choose to proceed, you still have options and rights.

Unless your car is being stopped because of a traffic violation, the police do not have the right to check your driver’s license or registration. However, suspicion of illegal conduct does grant officers the right to see both of these documents.

Similarly, without consent, the police are not allowed to search either the driver or his/her vehicle. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If police have a reason to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of criminal behavior, if the driver has been arrested, or if illegal items are in plain view, the officers are granted the right to search the vehicle without consent.

You should also note that if you are asked to take a field sobriety test, you may refuse. However, the officer may still arrest you, should they deem it necessary.

The Opposition

Although many claim that police checkpoints are an illegal invasion of the Fourth Amendment, until the court finds fault with them, police will still legally be allowed to use them.

The Supreme Court ruling on the aforementioned Michigan case found that the 25-second delay in travel was minimally intrusive, and that, because motorists’ privacy was not overwhelmingly invaded, the checkpoints are, indeed, legal and necessary to help decrease the number of drunk drivers on the roads.

Opponents of police checkpoints say that drivers can avoid being arrested at DUI checkpoints by refusing to speak to police. However, whether you choose to speak or not, it is important not to become combative with law enforcement

We’re Here to Help

Ultimately, regardless of your level of sobriety, it is always best to be cooperative. The law is in place to help and protect both you, as a driver, and everyone else on the road.

If you or someone you know has been arrested at a DUI checkpoint, call our office at 504-599-9997 for an initial consultation regarding your legal rights.

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