Flagstaff Lawyer Discusses DUI Checkpoints

Flagstaff, AZ – DUI checkpoints are, in some ways, a suspension of your Fourth Amendment rights. The reason I say that is because at a DUI checkpoint, even sober people will be stopped and questioned by police. This is not a “consensual encounter” when the sober, non-criminal person is forced to pull over and speak with a police offcer. Yet, it’s not illegal.  So what’s going on with DUI checkpoints?

DUI checkpoints are considered a low- or non-intrusive suspension of your Fourth Amendment rights (think: search and seizure).  They are a public safety exception to the general principle that a person cannot be seized by the police against their will unless there is, at least, reasonable suspicion of criminal activity afoot.  When you are totally sober, and you are forced to stop and wait in a line of cars, and forced to roll down your window and show your ID to a police officer and answer questions, all while you are not consenting to do so — that’s a DUI checkpoint in a nutshell.

When you are at a DUI checkpoint, the officers are really looking for things like: the smell of alcohol on you; slurred speech; red watery eyes; and other signs and symptoms of alcohol impairment. Therefore, even if you say, “I respectfully decline to speak with you,” the officer will try to look for signs of intoxication. If there are none, they will require you to produce a drivers license (usually) and then let you pass through. DUI checkpoints have been challenged before, and as far as I know in Arizona, they have been upheld as constitutional.

If you turn your car around and flee from a DUI checkpoint, you can be chased and pulled over and investigated, at least under Arizona case law.  If you flee from a police vehicle trying to pull you over, even if you feel that you did nothing wrong and are just driving away from a DUI checkpoint, you can be charged with Unlawful Flight, a class 5 felony.

DUI checkpoints often result in many arrests.  That’s because the police are finding people who, although impaired by alcohol, were otherwise driving well enough that no police officer had the reasonable suspicion to pull them over.  With a DUI checkpoint, they automatically must pull over.  That’s when the police can recognize signs and symptoms of alcohol impairment.  That’s when you get arrested and jailed and your car gets towed.

If you’ve got a Flagstaff, Sedona, or Prescott DUI charge, call today for a free Arizona DUI consultation.

 

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