At Sobriety Checkpoints, Police in Virginia Are Allowed to Examine Drivers for Signs of Drunk Driving

A large number of driving under the influence (DUI) prosecutions in the state of Virginia originate with “sobriety checkpoints”—barricades or traffic stops at which the police choose cars at random and observe their drivers for signs of intoxication. If you were charged with DUI after being stopped and interviewed at a sobriety checkpoint, you need to secure the best legal representation possible; the attorneys at Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC are available for a free consultation.

Sobriety Checkpoints Are an Increasingly Effective Tool of Law Enforcement

Sobriety checkpoints operate along the same basic principles as the roadblocks police set up when they're trying to catch an escaped felon. On a designated street or highway, police pull over vehicles at random and interview their drivers, looking for signs of intoxication (or other evidence that points to drunk driving, such as empty alcohol containers). If the police have cause to believe that you're intoxicated, you will be administered a field sobriety test (walking a straight line, counting backward from 100, etc.) and a preliminary breath test—and if you fail these tests, you will be taken to police headquarters, administered a more accurate blood-alcohol test, and formally arrested on a DUI charge.

Police Must Follow a Strict Protocol at Sobriety Checkpoints

A sobriety checkpoint doesn't give the police a blank check to pull over every vehicle on the road, yank out its driver, and administer a series of intoxication tests. Usually, police have to:

  • Announce the location of the sobriety checkpoint in advance (though they need not erect an actual sign on the road)
  • Use a mathematical formula with which to stop cars (e.g.., every eighth car, every twelfth car, etc.), rather than the behavior, age or overall appearance of the driver
  • Process drivers within a set time, so as not to impede traffic (except if a preliminary examination provides reasonable cause to believe that the driver is intoxicated)

A DUI Charge Stemming from a Sobriety Checkpoint Can Be Successfully Defended

If the police violate any of the protocols listed above at a given sobriety checkpoint—not stopping cars according to a predetermined formula, not announcing the checkpoint in advance, or taking too long to interview and examine drivers—that can be all an aggressive defense attorney needs to have the charge dismissed or downgraded. If you are facing a DUI charge after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in the state of Virginia, contact the law firm of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC today!