If you are like many Virginia drivers, you may question the legality of DUI checkpoints. With St. Patricks’ Day just around the corner, your query may become more urgent as you make plans with classmates and attempt to map out the safest way to get from point A to point B and back to campus again. While your question is a valid one — after all, sobriety checkpoints often feel like a violation of your constitutional rights — know that DUI checkpoints are, in fact, legal. That said, just because they are legal does not mean your rights vanish as you approach one.
According to Flex Your Rights, DUI checkpoints allow law enforcement to get a close look at passing motorists by briefly detaining them. The stop is quick, but it is not so quick that police officers cannot make note of license plate numbers and tags or to get a quick whiff of vehicle occupants’ breath. If an officer catches a whiff of alcohol, or if he or she believes you look impaired, he or she has the right to stop you.
Remember though that your constitutional rights still apply at sobriety checkpoints. Though law enforcement has the right to briefly detain you in these instances, it cannot keep unless it has probable cause that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As mentioned above, probable cause may arise if you smell of alcohol or if you look impaired. If an officer does stop you, you have no obligation to answer any questions beyond your name, and you certainly do not have to admit to breaking the law.
Bear in mind that while the courts permit sobriety checkpoints, they mandate that law enforcement conduct them properly. If you come across a roadblock at which police officers exercise powers which they do not rightfully possess, it may be in your best interests to contact an attorney.
The information shared here is not meant to serve as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.