Facing a charge of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) can be scary. For many people, a drunk driving stop is their first interaction with the criminal justice system. Due to increased drunk driving on and around Halloween night, it is becoming more common for police departments to set up DWI checkpoints to look for drunk drivers.
This is for a good reason: Drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher cause 38% of fatalities on Halloween night.
A DWI can be costly for you, as well. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that a DWI conviction costs over $10,000 in fines and legal fees for first-time offenders.
This article explains what happens at a DUI checkpoint, your rights, and how to avoid a DUI charge.
What Can Police Do at a DUI Checkpoint?
DUI checkpoints are unmistakable. A sign giving you a warning that a roadblock is up ahead, a line of cars, and the flashing lights of several police cars. At these checkpoints, police can:
- Stop you and ask you questions (remember that you have the right to remain silent)
- Request your license and insurance documentation
- Look for signs of alcohol or drug use
- Ask you to perform a field sobriety test
- Ask you to submit to a breathalyzer or drug swabs
Remember to answer or refuse to answer questions politely so that the situation does not escalate. It can be nerve-wracking, but understanding how to handle yourself when pulled over by police can help.
It is legal to turn around before you stop at a DUI checkpoint so long as you don’t break any traffic laws doing so (i.e., making an illegal u-turn). Driving recklessly or committing a violation will be a sure way to attract law enforcement’s attention.
What if I Refuse Tests at a DUI Checkpoint?
Under state law, you consent to certain tests for driver impairment when you register for a driver’s license. This is called “implied consent.” In most states, this refers to an evidentiary breath, blood, or urine test. If you refuse a Breathalyzer test, or a urine or blood test, you may lose your license.
Any reading above the legal limit is, per se, illegal, meaning a motorist can get a DUI even if they don’t feel drunk or drive poorly.
You do have the right to refuse to test. In most states, refusing to take a roadside BAC breath test or a field sobriety test will not subject you to implied consent penalties. However, if the police officer reasonably suspects you are under the influence, you may still be arrested on suspicion of driving drunk. Even if you ultimately do not face charges, but you refuse to submit to evidentiary testing, you could still lose your license or face stiffer penalties.
How To Have a Happy Halloween
Make a plan before your Halloween party to avoid drunk or impaired driving altogether.
- Choose a designated driver (sober driver)
- Call a sober friend or family member for a ride home
- Use Uber, Lyft, a taxi, or public transportation
- Avoid illicit and prescription drugs, as DUI laws punish intoxication and impairment, not just being drunk on alcohol
Additionally, don’t carry open alcoholic beverages in your car, or you might be charged under open-container laws.
Don’t Let a Halloween DUI Charge Haunt You
Enjoy your Halloween weekend but know your limits when drinking. While we give you this advice, it’s also important to not forget your rights at a DUI checkpoint. If you are charged with drunk driving, contact a local criminal defense attorney experienced in DUI law.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.