Police in Virginia are legally allowed to operate sobriety checkpoints, but they do not have the unlimited right to stop you and search your vehicle. The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution serves as protection from unreasonable search and seizure and gives drivers rights at sobriety checkpoints.
If you believe that you have been unreasonably stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Virginia, you should contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. The Virginia DUI attorneys of Whitestone Young, PC have more than 40 years of experience defending clients in DUI cases. If you have been charged with a DUI, contact us today, online or by calling 703-591-0200, for a free initial consultation.
DUI Checkpoints in Virginia
In Virginia, state law permits police departments to operate sobriety checkpoints. This does not mean, however, that they can inspect every vehicle or even stop vehicles at random. Instead, they must observe certain standards when setting up and operating DUI checkpoints. These standards require that:
- DUI checkpoints be publicly announced in advance
- Police adhere to a formula when stopping vehicles, e.g. stop every fifth vehicle
- Senior officials oversee any roadblock plan
- All officers at the checkpoint must be adequately trained for this specific scenario
- Safe conditions must be maintained at the site
- Drivers may not be detained without probable cause
At a DUI checkpoint, officers will usually ask for drivers to provide a driver’s license and registration. However, they are often looking for evidence of impairment, such as the smell of alcohol or marijuana, visual evidence of alcohol or drugs, bloodshot eyes, or slurred speech.
Is it Legal to Turn Around at a DUI Checkpoint?
If you notice a checkpoint, regardless of if you’ve been drinking or not, you may be nervous about proceeding. If a driver is safely able to avoid a checkpoint, they may do so, as long as they are not providing the police with a reasonable suspicion to stop them.
For example, if in trying to avoid the DUI checkpoint you make an illegal U-turn, cross over a solid white or double yellow line, or otherwise exhibit erratic behavior within eyesight of police, they are within their rights to pull over your vehicle.
What Should I Do if I’m Stopped at a DUI Checkpoint?
If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you need to be mindful of both your rights and your responsibilities at a stop. While police can make certain reasonable requests, they cannot do the following:
- Stop each vehicle that goes through a checkpoint: Police can only stop you if they are stopping vehicles according to a pattern (e.g., every fourth vehicle), but they can also stop you if they have a reasonable suspicion to believe you have been using alcohol or drugs (e.g., you are driving erratically).
- Insist that you take a breathalyzer test or other field sobriety test because you are driving through a checkpoint: Police can only require a breathalyzer test if they have a reasonable suspicion that you are intoxicated. They cannot demand that you take a breathalyzer test if you are not showing signs of intoxication.
- Require that you answer questions about your whereabouts: If you feel that answering a particular question could be self-incriminating, you do not have to do so.
How a DUI Lawyer Can Help You
Being charged with a DUI can have serious consequences, particularly if you are convicted. A DUI conviction can result in having your license suspended, which can make it hard to get to and from work or perform basic daily tasks. An experienced Virginia DUI defense lawyer can help ensure that your rights are protected and will give you the best chance of having a potential sentence reduced. The stakes are simply too high to not have committed legal representation.
The Virginia DUI lawyers of Whitestone Young, PC have provided our clients with aggressive representation for more than 40 years. If you have been charged with a DUI in Virginia, contact us today for a free and confidential consultation, online or by calling 703-591-0200.