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DUI checkpoints can dampen the holiday spirit

Chances are you already have a full schedule of events for the upcoming holidays. In addition to school pageants and concerts, you may have office parties, family events and gatherings at friends' homes. It really is a wonderful time of year to be around the special people in your life and share the holiday spirit.

You probably do not include the Louisiana State Police in that list of special people with whom you want to spend time this holiday. Nevertheless, law enforcement will be plentiful on the roads and highways to ensure everyone gets home safely. This may include additional officers on patrol and the use of sobriety checkpoints.

How do checkpoints work?

From time to time throughout the year, especially at times when drivers are more likely to be drinking, police may establish a roadblock in an area where DUI arrests or accidents are common. Vehicles passing this area must stop, and an officer may approach them to check the driver for signs of intoxication. Generally, to avoid challenges of discrimination or other violations of rights, police must follow these rules:

  • They must announce their plan to hold a checkpoint, but they do not have to disclose the location. This is because the goal is not necessarily to arrest people for DUI but to prevent them from driving while impaired to begin with.
  • Police must stop vehicles at regular intervals, such as every tenth car.
  • Checkpoint stops may last no longer than the average traffic light.
  • Officers who approach your vehicle may request your ID, ask if you have been drinking or otherwise engage you in conversation to check for signs of intoxication, such as bleary eyes, slurred speech or the smell of alcohol.

It is in your best interests to avoid too much conversation with police and never to admit if you have been drinking. If police believe they have reason to interrogate you further, they may pull you over and ask you to submit to field sobriety tests. It is up to you to decide whether you will comply, but it is always a good idea to remain silent until you can speak with an attorney.

Your rights

You may be among those who wonder if sobriety checkpoints are even constitutional. After all, doesn't an officer have to have a reasonable suspicion that you are impaired before pulling you over for DUI? While this is true in most circumstances, the Supreme Court ruled that the benefits of DUI checkpoints outweigh any potential violation of civil rights, so many states allow police to use this method of deterrence.

However, this does not mean that police will not overstep their bounds. If your experience with a DUI checkpoint ends with an arrest during this holiday season, having legal counsel as soon as possible can improve your chances of a more positive outcome.

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