DUI Sobriety Checkpoint Tips
Columbus GA Criminal Defense Lawyer Mark Jones Discusses Tips for When You Encounter DUI Roadblocks and Sobriety Checkpoints
Introduction: DUI sobriety checkpoints are very common in Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama. This is particularly true in Columbus, given the continued presence of the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s Nighthawk Task Force.
As I have previously written, the constitutionality of such roadblocks is debatable. This is because United States Constitution provides that we have a fundamental right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Regardless, here are four tips for what to do when encountering a police roadblock.
(1) Do Not Evade the DUI Sobriety Checkpoint / Roadblock!
The urge to evade the roadblock is there when you first realize you will encounter one, especially if you just enjoyed a nice dinner at the Loft in Columbus, Georgia and you had a glass of wine or a beer with dinner. So can you evade a roadblock legally?
The case law is clear that “normal driving that incidentally evades a roadblock does not justify an investigative stop by law enforcement.” Jones v. State, 259 Ga. App. 507, 578 S.E.2d 165 (2003). See also, Jorgensen v. State, 207 Ga. App. 545, 428 S.E.2d 440 (1992), which held that a mere intuition by the police officer that a driver who legally turned into an apartment complex was avoiding a roadblock was not enough to justify a traffic stop.
However, the case law is equally clear that “abnormal or unusual actions taken to avoid a roadblock may give an officer reasonable suspicion of criminal activity even when the evasive action is not illegal.” Stinson v. State, 318 Ga. App. 351, 733 S.E.2d 390 (2012).
Thus, if you evade a roadblock intentionally, your driving may be deemed “abnormal or unusual” by a reviewing court, which gives the officer reasonable grounds to pull you over.
(2) Provide the Officer with Your License and Say Nothing Else.
Officers who are overseeing DUI sobriety checkpoints are looking for drunk or impaired drivers, and the checkpoint should be limited to that under the law. See, e.g., Williams v. State, 293 Ga. 883 (2013) (roadblocks should be limited to specific law enforcement purposes, such as traffic enforcement or detecting driving under the influence, and not general crime detection).
Have your license, registration, and proof of insurance ready when you approach the roadblock. The police can ask you for this information. See generally, Hibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, 542 U.S. 960 (2004). Chances are that, unless the officer smells alcohol or other contraband when you are stopped, the sobriety checkpoint stop will be a minor inconvenience.
Provide the officer with your ID but say nothing else. If you are riding as a passenger and not operating the vehicle, there is really no reason to say anything to the police but it is always advisable to inform the officer of your name, age, and address.
(3) Determine Whether to Participate in Field Sobriety Tests and the State Administered Test.
You need to know the basics of DUI field sobriety testing and evidentiary testing before you approach a roadblock, so you can determine how you are going to respond if you have been drinking.
Under Georgia law, you need not submit to field sobriety testing such as the HGN test (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus), the one-leg stand, or the walk and turn test. Candidly, if the responding officer wants you to take these tests, you are likely going to be arrested anyhow, so it does not make sense to submit to these.
Nor must you submit to the Portable Breath Test (PBT) at the scene of the traffic stop (this is also known as the alcosensor).
Rather, under Georgia’s implied consent law, you must only submit to the state-administered test on the Intoxilyzer 9000, submit to a blood test, or a urine test.
If you are going to take the state-administered test and provide the state with evidence to prosecute you, you may want to request the Intoxilyer 9000 since a blood test will obviously provide the state with significantly more data about you than a breath test. If you can afford one, you also have the right to an independent test that you pay for.
If you refuse to take a state-administered test, you will face a one-year hard suspension of your driver’s license or Georgia driving privileges (if your license is out of state). A hard suspension means there are no work permits available.
(4) If Arrested for DUI at a Roadblock, Hire a Lawyer:
DUI sobriety checkpoints have very special requirements under the law in order to be valid. In addition to the technical and procedural compliance issues present in all DUI cases, in order for the arrest to be valid following a DUI sobriety checkpoint arrest, there are several requirements that an experienced DUI lawyer will be familiar with.
If the roadblock requirements are not met, you may have a strong case for dismissal of the charges against you. You should hire an experienced attorney if you are arrested following a roadblock stop.
It goes without saying that the surefire way to “beat” a DUI sobriety checkpoint is to avoid drinking and driving altogether. With that said, if you do encounter such a DUI checkpoint and are arrested, contact an experienced DUI attorney to represent you. For a free consultation regarding your DUI case, contact the Law Offices of Mark P. Jones today at 706-225-2555 or 706-ARMY-DUI.
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