Drunk driving checkpoints can be a serious inconvenience, especially when you’re in a hurry. They’re even more inconvenient when they result in people going to jail who otherwise would never have interacted with the police. When you see one coming up in the road ahead of you, you might wonder if they are legal in Virginia, and what your options are.
What DUI checkpoints do
Sometimes, the state police decide to put their limited resources to use to designate one specific point on the road that they can thoroughly check for intoxicated drivers. They do this by stopping every single car that comes through their checkpoint and examining the drivers for signs of intoxication.
The legality of DUI checkpoints has been challenged in court by disgruntled drivers in various states whom the police arrested. The courts ultimately decided that these police checkpoints are not a violation of the Fourth Amendment, as long as they are reasonable and comply with certain requirements.
What are my rights at a DUI checkpoint?
If you see a roadblock ahead of you on the road, it’s not advisable to turn around and try to avoid it. Instead, it’s better to head through it, keeping in mind your constitutional rights.
Police at a DUI checkpoint are allowed to briefly look inside your car, but they do not have the right to conduct a full search of your car – unless they have a reasonable belief that such a search will result in evidence of a crime. This belief must be based on rational facts, not simply on a hunch. They can also search your car if they arrest you, or if you give them permission.
If police improperly search your car, do not resist. Contact an attorney as soon as possible. If the police take you into custody at a checkpoint, it’s best to immediately invoke your right to an attorney, rather than trying to navigate police questioning on your own. An attorney will be able to identify any improper questioning techniques, and they will be able to guide you in answering questions in a way that will not incriminate you.
Although DUI checkpoints are a serious inconvenience for Virginia drivers, they are usually legal – if they comply with the rules. The best thing you can do if you see one is to comply with police officers while exercising your constitutional rights.