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DUI Checkpoints & Sobriety Tests

A DUI checkpoint (sometimes known as a DWI checkpoint) is when officers set up roadblocks or checkpoints and pull over passing vehicles to randomly check drivers to see if they have been drinking. This is considered a valid method for police officers to keep drunk drivers off the road. If there is suspicion that you have been drinking, you may be subjected to sobriety tests even if you are not stopped at a DUI checkpoint.

It is important to know your rights when it comes to DUI checkpoints and sobriety tests.

How Do DUI Checkpoints Work?

If you are driving down the street, you may see a police officer signaling to drivers to pull over to the side of the road. This is likely a DUI checkpoint, and it is used to gauge whether drivers have been drinking.

When you are pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, the officer will ask you to remain in the vehicle. He or she will ask for your license and registration, then may proceed to ask you questions such as whether you have been drinking. If the officer suspects, through your voice or your movements, you are drunk, he or she may then ask you to step out of the car and submit to a field sobriety test.

Field Sobriety Tests

The standard field sobriety test is composed of three parts.

The first part consists of standing on one leg with your arms to the side. You then are instructed to suspend one foot above the ground about six inches.

The second part requires that you walk a straight line, placing one foot directly in front of the other. When you get to the end of the line, you are then instructed to turn around and walk back to the officer in the same manner.

The last test is known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus. This test requires you to follow a moving object with your eyes while keeping your head still.

Although these tests have proven to be fairly accurate at discerning whether someone is impaired, failing these tests does not automatically mean someone is intoxicated. Rather, it simply means he or she is impaired, and impairment can be caused by a variety of factors, including fatigue or illness.

Usually, you may refuse to undergo a field sobriety test unless you are under the age of 21. However, laws vary from state to state so check with a DUI attorney in your area.

Challenging Field Sobriety Test Evidence

DUI consequences can be very serious. A DUI penalty can entail a suspended license, fines, community service, alcohol counseling, jail time, or a combination of any of these.

If you are stopped at DUI checkpoints and undergo field sobriety tests, you will want to do anything you can to challenge evidence that may convict you of a DUI.

For instance, there are a number of reasons aside from intoxication that could explain why you failed a field sobriety test. These reasons include:

  • Your age, weight, or physical condition
  • Poor roadside testing conditions
  • The use of certain medications or if you suffer from certain illnesses
  • The police officer's training in administering and interpreting sobriety tests

If you have additional questions about DUI checkpoints or sobriety tests, contact an attorney with DUI experience in your area.