Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Virginia and What Are My Rights?

Roadway sobriety checkpoints are not legal in every state. The argument is that they might violate a driver’s Fourth Amendment rights, which protect American citizens from ‘unreasonable’ searches. Typically, police need cause in order to pull a car over and ask questions of the driver, such as suspecting criminal activity or drunk driving. At a DUI checkpoint, law enforcement generally has no such cause. As a result, sobriety checkpoints have been a topic of debate in the U.S. Supreme Court on more than one occasion.

In Virginia, however, DUI/DWI checkpoints are legal.

It could be said that the police take advantage of the fact that most people do not know their legal rights and how they pertain to DUI checkpoints. There are certain things that police can and cannot do at these checkpoints.

The law states that:
DUI checkpoints must be announced ahead of time with a set time and place.
Police need a written plan for how to operate their checkpoint. Despite how it looks to drivers, the cops cannot select motor vehicles at random. Instead, they must follow their system. Their plan could target every fourth car, for example, or perhaps every automobile that had been clocked going above a certain speed.
The police cannot check every car. If law enforcement stops every car, this may be an abuse of justice.
They cannot insist you take a breathalyzer to test for blood alcohol levels.

Similarly, there are actions that you do and do not have to take in response to the checkpoint.

Should You Try to Avoid the Checkpoint?

If you see a DUI checkpoint coming with enough warning, you could potentially take another route. However, you are strongly recommended not to make a U-turn or any other dramatic maneuver. The police have a chase car looking for motorists who behave this way. They are present because, if you take a U-turn, they may see this as some indication of guilt that you are drunk behind the wheel of the car. If you find yourself at a DUI checkpoint and in need of immediate representation, contact lawyers specializing in DUI cases in Virginia.

But the chase car can also spell trouble for motorists who’ve had nothing to drink. For example, in your attempt to avoid the hassle of the police checkpoint, you might perform an illegal U-turn. Perhaps you had done nothing wrong before, but now you have.

Do You Need to Allow the Police to Search Your Car?

You may deny the police officer’s requests to search your vehicle. Without probable cause, they cannot search your motor vehicle without express permission. If the police officers detect something that gives them cause to search your vehicle, then they may have that right. Don’t give them such a reason.

You don’t even need to roll down your windows to speak with the officer. Lowering your windows could allow the police to smell alcohol, thus giving them cause to ask you to step out of the car.

Do You Need to Answer the Police Officer’s Questions?

You may refuse the request to answer the police officer’s questions. Whether you’re doing so because you wish to wait until your lawyer is present can be up to you. Without probable cause, the police cannot demand that you answer any of their questions.

If you are arrested at a checkpoint, you have the right to remain silent. Also, you have the right to have your vehicle and possessions transported somewhere safe. If police officers deny you this right, they may be held liable for any potential damages suffered.

Contact the Law Office of Seth C. Weston to Discuss Your DUI Case

Illegal in some states but legal in Virginia, DUI/DWI checkpoints are a controversial subject. If you find yourself stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you must remember your rights. Additionally, you should try to keep a watchful eye on the police to ensure that they are obeying the laws themselves.

If you’ve been mistreated at a checkpoint or were arrested for a DUI, please get in touch with our Roanoke-based law firm. The Law Office of Seth C. Weston has a team of Virginia-based DUI defense attorneys that would proudly defend you in criminal law courts.

To schedule your initial consultation, call us at (540)-384-4585.