DUI Checkpoints: What Are They and What Should I Do?
A DUI checkpoint occurs when law enforcement officers stop vehicles at a predetermined location to check whether drivers are impaired. Generally, either every vehicle is stopped, or vehicles are stopped at regular intervals, such as every fourth vehicle or every seventh vehicle. Checkpoints are meant to deter drinking and driving, through the perceived increased risk of arrest. The first DUI checkpoint occurred in Scandinavia in the 1930s, becoming common in the United States by the early 1980s.
In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints, although the debate continues, and some states have deemed sobriety checkpoints illegal. Today, DUI checkpoints are allowed in 38 states, although very few states actually conduct these checkpoints on a regular basis—perhaps due to potential challenges, or perhaps due to lack of funding and lack of law enforcement personnel.
According to the CDC, DUI checkpoints have been found to reduce alcohol-related injuries, property damage, and fatalities by at least 20 percent. Ostensibly, the primary purpose of checkpoints is to deter driving while intoxicated, rather than to increase arrests, however, this may or may not be the end result. Checkpoints may also be used to check for seat belt use, to check for outstanding warrants, to look for stolen vehicles, and to look for other potential criminal infractions.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in the State of Mississippi?
Although DUI checkpoints are not legal in many states, checkpoints are legal in the state of Mississippi. To be clear, while the Mississippi courts have not directly ruled on the legality of DUI checkpoints, they have, through the 1987 decision in Boches v. State of Mississippi, determined that the police checkpoints can occur and that the police are allowed to pursue and detain anyone who attempts to evade a checkpoint—also known as roadblocks, sobriety checkpoints, or mobile checkpoints.
In many parts of the state, DUI checkpoints are a weekly occurrence. Although each state is allowed to impose its own guidelines as far as these checkpoints go, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the dangers from drunk driving outweigh the degree of intrusion from a sobriety checkpoint, therefore are an exception to the U.S. Constitution search and seizure provisions.
What Rules Must the Police Follow at a Mississippi DUI Checkpoint?
The primary rule police must follow at a Mississippi DUI checkpoint is that the traffic stops must not be tied to any specific individual or any suspicion of any specific individual. The locations chosen for DUI checkpoints must be temporary and must be random. A checkpoint must be publicized before it is set up, must include warning signs or signals which designate the official nature of the stop, and must be properly lit.
Those interested in knowing where Mississippi checkpoints will occur can check roadblock.org. Officers at a DUI checkpoint must clearly identify themselves during a checkpoint stop, with the “neutral” formula in place ahead of time to determine which cars will be stopped. This means a driver may not be stopped because he or she appears “questionable,” or for any reason other than the predetermined formula.
What Do Police Look for at a Mississippi DUI Checkpoint?
DUI checkpoints are more common during holidays, special events, and at night, and while the sobriety checkpoint is supposed to be in a random location, it is likely the checkpoints will occur in a high DUI offense area. During a DUI checkpoint, an officer will speak to the predetermined drivers, looking for signs of intoxication. These signs of intoxication could be red, watery eyes, the smell of alcohol coming from the driver, slurred speech, or belligerent behaviors.
What Can You Expect at a Mississippi DUI Checkpoint?
During a DUI sobriety checkpoint, predetermined drivers—or every driver, if that was the determination—will be briefly detained and interviewed, after which any suspicious drivers could be subjected to a sobriety test. If there are no signs of impairment, the driver will be allowed to continue. In some instances, law enforcement may bring in K-9’s as a part of the checkpoint process.
Any sign of intoxication on the part of a driver will result in a more thorough examination of the suspected driver, possibly including field sobriety tests and breathalyzer tests. It is important to remember that even at a DUI checkpoint, a driver’s constitutional rights still apply. Your vehicle may not be searched unless the officer has probable cause to do so—such as obvious alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia.
While the officer can ask to search your car, you may decline, and a forced search may not be instigated without probable cause. The officer is not allowed to hold you longer than necessary, and you are not required to answer any questions other than providing your name and address. As with any DUI arrest, you have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to speak with an attorney.
What Should You Do During a Mississippi DUI Checkpoint?
To ensure you remain on the right side of the law during a Mississippi DUI checkpoint, the following points bear repeating:
- Be very careful what you say—do not answer any questions other than providing your basic identifying information;
- Remain polite, calm, and courteous to prevent your behavior from being interpreted as aggressive;
- Remember that a search of your vehicle requires consent, and
- Remember that field sobriety tests are voluntary.
If the police officer places you under arrest, remain calm, clearly asking for an attorney. Do not answer any more questions until you have spoken to an experienced Mississippi DUI attorney.
How Can Stroud, Flechas & Dalton Help?
Stroud, Flechas & Dalton has a deep understanding of what it takes to defend charges stemming from sobriety checkpoints. Throughout the years, our firm has earned our clients’ trust, proudly representing people across DeSoto County, in Horn Lake, Holly Springs, Olive Branch, Tunica, Walls, Nesbit, Hernando, Memphis, Tennessee, and, of course, in Southaven, where our offices are located. The consequences you could face after being charged with a Mississippi DUI could be extremely severe. You are likely to be confused, upset, and anxious about your future. Stroud, Flechas & Dalton has highly experienced DUI defense attorneys who will fight for your rights. We will be by your side from start to finish, because we believe in you and will work hard for your future. Contact Stroud, Flechas & Dalton today.