By: William C. Head, Criminal Defense Attorney Atlanta GA and ABA Board-Certified DUI Attorney
Recently our DUI law firm has noticed many cases of individuals, who after being pulled over by the police at drunk driving checkpoints, ask us “Are DUI checkpoints legal?“. As the number of DUI arrests in America drops, police are having to resort to warrantless DUI checkpoints to arrest suspected drunk-driving offenders. Because any DUI checkpoint is PRESUMPTIVELY unconstitutional, a DUI lawyer seeking to uncover the flaws and the lack of Constitutional compliance must investigate every available angle of police checkpoints.
These roadblocks are also known as sobriety checkpoints, mainly set up to arrest DUI offenders by use of a voluntary portable breathalyzer, and voluntary field sobriety tests. Yes, you are NOT required to do anything at a drunk driving checkpoint except provide documents and give your correct name and address. No answering questions. No agreement to allow a test of your breath or a search of your vehicle at a DUI checkpoint.
Many drivers approaching a sobriety checkpoint feel pressure to comply with the officer demanding compliance. You do not have to comply with anything UNTIL they arrest you. But, any knowledgeable DUI attorneys in Atlanta will tell you that field sobriety tests at a checkpoint are VOLUNTARY. You do not have to take them. If you do, your performance on these tests will be videotaped and later used as evidence against you at the administrative license suspension hearing, and at the trial of your criminal case.
To know whether you should take the OFFICIAL breath alcohol test, READ THIS INFORMATION. This is part of the Georgia implied consent law, and failure to submit to this implied consent test can cause you to NOT be allowed to drive in Georgia for a full year. However, once you do submit, you are entitled to obtain your own INDEPENDENT test of blood, breath, urine, or all three types of tests (but you must pay for each to be collected and tested.)
NO. If there is no smell of alcohol, the officer will ask you whether you have taken any drugs. REMAIN SILENT. Admitting to taking medications at a DUI checkpoint may be a sufficient basis for an officer to pull you out of your car for sobriety tests to check for impairment by DRUGS. Drunk driving checkpoints are fishing expeditions. Do not TALK and self-incriminate. Even if you are 100% sober, tests like the HGN eye test, one-leg stand, and walk and turn ARE NOT SCIENTIFIC and can be hard to perform. This is especially true for anyone who:
For people unfamiliar with “testing and measurement” science, uncontrolled VARIABLES at a roadside location can taint the performance of field sobriety test maneuvers at a DUI checkpoint, and can also cause you to “fail.” Factors like an uneven parking lot or roadside surface, debris, lack of a clearly visible, straight, and flat line to walk, driver stress that causes shaky legs, or rotating police lights also can cause issues.
The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution clearly states the rights and privileges of an individual:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
States like Georgia have indeed provided more Constitutional protections, under our Georgia Constitution, when compared to the Constitution of the United States. But the Georgia Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have (under certain limited situations) allowed DUI roadblocks to be legal. The Georgia Constitution does not have a specific provision that EXPANDS a person’s rights at a DUI checkpoint.
Many officers at police checkpoints fail to understand that even though a DUI roadblock may be legal when properly approved, properly manned, properly supervised, properly operated, and properly documented, DUI checkpoints are an exception to one’s Constitutional right to not be stopped by police who have not seen a crime committed, or have reasonable suspicion sufficient for a police seizure of the driver’s vehicle.
For a DUI roadblock in GA to be legal, the checkpoint must meet the following 4th amendment constitutional qualifications in the State of Georgia:
So, DUI roadblocks can be legal but they DO have constitutional limitations that most citizens don’t know about. This lack of understanding of their legal rights at DUI checkpoints exposes many Georgia drivers to unwarranted harassment and intimidation by sobriety checkpoint officers. The rules set forth above, about what to DO and NOT do, are vital for any citizen.
Researching online for a highly-rated online tool for identifying commonly used police roadblock locations is both frustrating and not very encouraging. Reading the online ratings for MrCheckpoint.com seems to indicate that users are less than enthused. Complaints run from the roadblock app not working in their area, to not being accurate for finding “checkpoints near me.”. One person complained that he could only access it at home, which we assume means that it takes a high-speed Internet connection to work properly.
The CopBlock.com website suggests using the Waze app, on a smartphone to see if police are ahead on your route. Since you cannot know if the person’s Waze notification is merely a police officer using laser or radar, or that a roadblock is ahead, you likely want to divert to a parallel roadway. Two tips may be helpful in deciding whether to divert:
After being arrested for DUI in Georgia, the first thing to do it identify an expert on Georgia DUI law through top attorney ratings. Look at who is BEHIND the law firm, review each of the trial lawyers’ credentials, and check out the criminal defense attorney who leads the law office. Every experienced DUI lawyer in the law firm must have full command of DUI laws and possess training in all aspects of successfully challenging the driving under the influence criminal case.
This successful defense record must include suppressing breath alcohol tests, and knowing every prior appellate decision on the Georgia implied consent law. An increasing number of drugged driving cases require that our criminal defense lawyers know how to challenge a GBI blood alcohol or drugs test. Being an INSTRUCTOR in the three NHTSA standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) is also necessary.
The best DUI attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia will offer you a FREE consultation, explain how their criminal attorneys search for a successful defense in your case, and aggressively represent clients to the maximum extent the law allows. Limit your search to DUI lawyers who have legitimate lawyer ratings and a history of proven results on knowing how to beat a DUI. If we are the criminal defense attorneys for you, ask us about our attorney payment plans.
Call our DUI defense lawyers NOW, 24-7, for an initial case review and FREE legal advice: 404-567-5515, or email our criminal justice attorneys.