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Ohio OVI DUI Checkpoints & Sobriety Tests

DUI checkpoints in Ohio are a legal method of catching and deterring drunk driving. First used in Ohio in July 1989, DUI checkpoints were ruled to be legal in 1990 by the U.S. Supreme Court, granted the checkpoint operates within certain guidelines.

Ohio police officers and highway patrol also use field sobriety tests to gauge whether a driver has been drinking (known as operating a vehicle under the influence, or OVI, in Ohio). Like Ohio DUI checkpoints, sobriety tests are another method to keep drunk drivers off the streets.

The Basics of Ohio DUI Checkpoints

When the Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints were a valid form of drunk driving deterrence, it also provided states with specific guidelines to ensure these checkpoints are valid. Ohio DUI checkpoints must follow these guidelines.

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the site of the checkpoint must have a lengthy history of alcohol-related accidents or drunk driving. This establishes the need for a checkpoint.

Next, the logistical issues of the checkpoint must be mapped out. This includes coming up with staffing and organizing the checkpoint.

A week prior to establishing Ohio DUI checkpoints, officials must notify residents. The notice must contain the date, time, and location of the checkpoint. A few hours before the checkpoint begins operating, a checkpoint administrator will issue an advisory that details the exact location of the checkpoint and the exact times it will begin and end.

All officers manning the Ohio OVI checkpoints are briefed an hour or two in advance on the operational elements of the checkpoint. This includes how to execute proper checkpoint procedure.

What Do Ohio DUI Checkpoints Look Like

Ohio DUI checkpoints are designed to ensure the safety of both the drivers and the police officers manning the checkpoint. On the side of the road, officials will place large reflective signs. Next to these signs are marked police cars. It is at this point that drivers have the option to turn their vehicles around and not enter the checkpoint.

A line of traffic cones or other road markers mark off the beginning of the checkpoint. This is accompanied by a sign that signals there is a sobriety checkpoint ahead.

The entire checkpoint area is lit up using portable lights, flares, and emergency vehicle lights.

The Checkpoint Process

Not all vehicles are stopped at a checkpoint. Some will be allowed to pass through unchecked, while others will be stopped by officials. The number of vehicles that are stopped will depend on the volume of traffic. What is certain is that the stops must be uniformly random to meet the Supreme Court's guidelines.

If you are stopped, a police officer will look for signs of alcohol impairment. This could include slurred speech, smelling of alcohol, or erratic behavior.

If you exhibit symptoms of alcohol impairment, you will be sent to a separate screening area for further testing.

Ohio Field Sobriety Tests

In this screening area, officials administer the field sobriety tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These tests include:

  • The walk and turn: A driver is told to walk in a straight line with his or her feet aligned heel to toe. After reaching a certain point, the driver is told to turn and to repeat.
  • The one-legged stand: The driver keeps his or her arms at his or her side while standing on one foot with the other foot a few inches off the ground
  • The alcohol gaze nystagmus exam: A driver must follow a moving object with his or her eyes without moving his or her head

If you fail any of these tests, an officer has what is called probable cause to arrest you. Probable cause means he or she has a valid suspicion that you have broken the law.

Ohio DUI Lawyers

If you encounter Ohio DUI checkpoints and are arrested for drunk driving, you will want to know your rights under the law. An Ohio DUI lawyer can help you understand your rights and the legal defenses available to you.

Under the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to an attorney after your arrest. You should reach out to your Ohio DUI lawyer as soon after your arrest as possible. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may have one appointed to you. This lawyer is known as a public defender.