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The Holidays are Here, and so Are DUI Checkpoints

police checkpoint

The holiday season is upon us, bringing snowy roads, festive celebrations, and DUI checkpoints.

North Dakota police officers know that people will be celebrating the holidays, and that these celebrations often involve alcohol. As a result, they are stepping up DUI enforcement efforts during the holidays. A common tool law enforcement uses to target and investigate potential drunk drivers are DUI checkpoints.

What Are DUI Checkpoints?

Police use DUI checkpoints to enforce drunk driving laws. They allow the police to stop drivers to check licenses, seat belts, and other issues that ensure the safe and lawful operation of a car or other motor vehicle. Police also use sobriety checkpoints to screen drivers to determine whether they are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Because the number of holiday parties increase between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, police use DUI checkpoints more frequently during the month of December.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

To be lawful, there are certain rules law enforcement must follow when setting up a police checkpoint. Cop checkpoints must:

  • Be set up for a legitimate purpose, such as checking licenses and insurance, or screening for drunk drivers
  • Be ordered by a supervisor, not just set up by officers during their shift
  • Stop every car, or cars at regular intervals, rather than singling out drivers based on race, sex, or some other trait
  • Be clearly marked and identified
  • Be staffed by properly trained officers
  • Be stationary, as opposed to ‘roving’

If police officers do not properly set up and staff a sobriety checkpoint and you are caught and charged with a DUI or other criminal offense, your criminal defense attorney may be able to successfully challenge the stop and have the case against you dismissed.

What Should You Do If You Are Stopped at a Sobriety Checkpoint?

If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, remain calm. Police officers will monitor traffic approaching the sobriety checkpoint. If you try to make an illegal turn to avoid the cop checkpoint, police will have reason to believe you committed a crime and can legally follow and stop you.

Approach the DUI checkpoint slowly and follow the directions from law enforcement. You will be asked to provide your license and insurance information. Remember, you are not required to speak with police officers at a sobriety checkpoint. However, not talking can raise suspicion that you have committed a crime and prompt police officers to conduct a more thorough investigation. 

Be cooperative with the police officers, but remember that you do not need to do everything they say. Do not lie, and do not admit to having consumed drugs or alcohol. This information can be used to establish probable cause, and later as evidence that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Instead, politely decline to answer the police officers’ questions about drug use or alcohol consumption.

If police suspect you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or have committed some other crime, they will ask you to pull over and get out of your vehicle. Even if you are asked to pull over, remember that your Constitutional rights still apply.

Can Police Officers Search My Vehicle at a Checkpoint?

You are not required to consent to a search of your vehicle. As you pass through the DUI checkpoint, police will have an opportunity to glance inside your vehicle from the outside of it. If there is nothing in plain sight that gives them probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and they cannot smell or otherwise observe contraband inside, they have no legal reason to search your vehicle. But if you consent to a search of your vehicle, police will have free reign to search it. If there is any evidence of illegal activity, it will be very difficult to prove that the search was conducted illegally.

Fremstad Law. Moving You Forward.

If you were stopped at a police checkpoint and were charged with a DUI or some other crime, the criminal defense attorneys at Fremstad Law can help. Our lawyers represent people who have been accused of crimes in federal, state, and municipal courts in North Dakota and Minnesota.

At Fremstad Law, our mission is to move our clients forward. Learn more about our criminal defense practice and the cases we handle, meet our people, and contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.