What Time do DUI Checkpoints Start, and What Should People Know Before Stopping?
DUI and DWI checkpoints are used across the USA to tackle the issue of drunk driving and public safety. They tend to be found at night time and are controversial for their use in relation to fourth amendment rights.
The following guide to DUI and DWI checkpoints covers everything Texas drivers need to know- including what time they start, how they work, what rights drivers have, what to do when stopped, and whether or not they are even legal.
What Are DWI/DUI Checkpoints?
Also known as sobriety checkpoints, DUI/DWI checkpoints are a type of roadblock set up by police officers to identify people who are drunk driving. Law enforcement man these roadblocks and stop cars passing by to perform searches and sobriety tests. The primary purpose of sobriety checkpoints is to cut down on impaired driving and the dangers it causes by catching those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What Time do Checkpoints Start and End?
Generally, law enforcement officers set up sobriety checkpoints from around 9 PM. This is not a set time, but it is when drivers should begin looking out for DWI roadblocks. Some areas more prone to impaired drivers may remain blocked into the early hours of the morning, but most checkpoints clear just after midnight.
These times are just guidelines, as police departments can choose to set up DWI checkpoints at any time. However, 9 PM until midnight is when drivers should be most aware. It is worth noting that checkpoints set up at unusual times- during the day, for example- could be brought into question.
What Happens At a DUI Checkpoint?
In short, a law enforcement officer asks a car to stop at the DUI checkpoint. Usually, police cars sit at each side of the DUI roadblock, and a police officer stands on the road. They check the driver for signs of intoxication and may ask to perform DWI tests if they believe the particular circumstances call for one.
The police officer may also ask to search the car or have the driver leave the vehicle if they require more evidence to justify the tests. Depending on the circumstances, compliance with these requests is not always mandatory- and is often unadvisable under the law.
Are DWI Checkpoints Legal?
Sobriety checkpoints are illegal in Texas- but are legal in some states.
Across the USA, the question of whether or not DWI checkpoints violate a citizen's fourth amendment rights has been disputed, but in 1990, the Supreme Court ruled they are valid. As a result, 37 US states allow law enforcement to legally set up roadblocks and insist on vehicle searches and sobriety testing as they see fit.
Texas, however, is amongst the 13 states that go against the Supreme Court ruling and declare DWI roadblocks illegal. Other states in the list are:
Does That Mean there are No DWI Roadblocks in Texas?
No, it doesn't. Police departments can still choose to set up a sobriety checkpoint where they see fit, but there are strict rules about what they can and cannot enforce, and drivers have certain refusal rights. Anyone stopped at a DWI checkpoint should know their rights and how to act to avoid unnecessary trouble for themselves.
Understanding DWI Checkpoint Laws in Texas
Although DWI roadblocks are illegal in Texas, checkpoints still exist, and drivers can still be arrested. To avoid problems, drivers should know their rights under the law.
Can Law Enforcement Officers Make Drivers Stop?
Driving through a DWI checkpoint after being asked to stop is inadvisable. Generally, officers only ask vehicles to stop if the driver shows signs of reckless driving. If flagged down, a driver should pull over on request and roll down the window when asked. Be prepared to show a license and registration and engage in conversation.
Is It Legal to Turn Around at a DWI Checkpoint?
Checkpoints are not meant to be set up as traps- and there should be plenty of time and warning for a person to change their route to avoid an upcoming roadblock. The is no law that says it is illegal to avoid a DWI or turn away, but a driver cannot violate general road safety rules to do so.
If there is no safe, legal way to turn on the road, police could stop a person for illegal or dangerous driving and could then order a sobriety test. With that in mind, it is better to drive to the checkpoint and decline participation rather than attempt to turn around and break the law in the process.
Does a Police Officer Have the Right to Force a Sobriety Test?
No, they do not, but they will ask for one if a driver shows any signs of intoxication. These include- but are not limited to slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, fumbling with documentation, or other physical signs.
If they suspect someone of being intoxicated, they can request a breath test, mouth swab, or field sobriety test. A result that shows the presence of alcohol in the driver's system is cause for arrest and can be used in court- but only if the officer can prove there was probable cause and that all procedures were followed correctly. Other tests include a blood test or a urine test (find out how long it takes to get DUI urine test results or what happens if you refuse a blood test for DUI).
Texas drivers need to know they are within their rights to refuse these tests. They cannot legally be penalized for declining to participate.
Are Arrests Made at DWI Checkpoints in Texas Legal?
Arrests made at a DWI checkpoint may be considered legal if all requirements are met. The arresting police officer must be able to prove the following:
They had probable cause to stop the car in the first place.
The driver implied consent for the sobriety testing and all tests were carried out correctly.
A supervising officer approved all operational decisions regarding the checkpoint.
The checkpoint was set up safely in a reasonable location at a justifiable time.
Clear and fair warning was provided to inform the person of an upcoming checkpoint.
There was no doubt as to the official nature of the checkpoint.
If there is any proof of unreasonable search, unlawful stop, or inaccurate testing, the arrest can be dismissed. A free consultation with an experienced attorney can help navigate these situations quickly and effectively.
How to Act at Sobriety Checkpoints in Fort Worth, Texas
Checkpoints are found around most cities in Texas despite being illegal. They tend to be set up between 9 PM and midnight- especially on weekends, holidays, or special events. Knowing how to react if stopped is essential to protect one's rights under the state constitution and avoid unnecessary legal trouble.
Do Not Admit to Drinking
Never under any circumstance should a person admit to having consumed drugs or alcohol before operating their vehicle. Usually, a person's automatic response when asked if they have been drinking is to say no. If this is the case, it is best to answer this way- and say nothing else.
People who have consumed alcohol should say nothing or politely inform the officer they do not wish to answer their question. Keep conversation to an absolute minimum and avoid eye contact. Even statements such as, "I only had one" or "I drank hours ago" should be avoided, as they can be used as evidence to support the stop and search.
Remember, these checkpoints are illegal, and there is no obligation to comply with requests. However, offering information or showing obvious signs of intoxication can lead to a valid arrest. Do not say or do anything that could be used in court. Be polite, don't argue, and say very little.
Refuse a Car Search
There is no legal reason for a police officer in Texas to search through personal belongings at a sobriety checkpoint, so politely decline any request to do so. Unreasonable searches can be used to search for the slightest hint of evidence to justify an arrest, but the Texas state constitution deems them a violation of rights. Avoid trouble and refuse the vehicle search outright.
Choose Whether to Take a Sobriety Test or Not
If a police officer requests a blood test, breath test, or field test to check sobriety, it is at the discretion of the driver whether or not to accept. They cannot be forced to participate or penalized for refusing to do so. A police officer must have undeniable evidence that a person is intoxicated to warrant a forced alcohol test and have probable cause to have stopped a vehicle regardless of the checkpoint.
Ask Before Leaving
Do not attempt to drive away before being instructed to do so. Usually, vehicles are only stopped for a few minutes maximum. It could be less than a minute if there is no reason to believe the person is intoxicated.
After passing tests, people should be allowed to leave- but it is essential to ask before driving away to avoid confusion. Police officers cannot hold vehicles for an indefinite period. If a person asks to leave and there is no reason to hold them, they must be allowed to go.
How To Respond if Arrested at a Texas DWI Checkpoint
DUI sobriety checkpoints are illegal in Texas, but it doesn't mean intoxicated drivers cannot be arrested. If police officers believe a person is drunk driving, they can arrest them. Because the stop is a violation of the fourth amendment under Texas law, there is strong cause to appeal an arrest and have a charge dropped- but only if the driver reacts to the arrest correctly.
Stay Calm and Do Not Resist
Although sobriety checkpoints are illegal, a law enforcement officer can still make a legal arrest if they have probable cause to believe a person is driving under the influence. If a person tries to resist the arrest, it is only likely to hurt their case in the long run.
The driver should remain calm and comply with requests- but they should also remain silent and offer no information. Do not argue or act aggressively, as other charges could apply. If arrested, go along with it with as little reaction as possible. Say as little as possible until in the presence of dedicated DWI lawyers.
Contact a DWI Defense Attorney
Reach out to an expert DWI defense attorney immediately. Do not answer any further questioning from law enforcement personnel and clearly state your wishes to be allowed to contact a lawyer. The first opportunity may come after being booked at the police station. Refuse to speak to anyone or answer questions until the request is met.
Maintain an Innocent Plea
At no point during or after the arrest should a person admit to drunk driving. Do not even admit it over the phone with an attorney. If the police officer at the sobriety checkpoint believes a driver is under the influence of alcohol or otherwise intoxicated, they can legally make an arrest. An admission of guilt can be used in Texas court- regardless of the circumstances.
Speak to an Expert at Sparks Law Firm Today
Sparks Law Firm is a leading authority in defense law in Fort Worth, Texas. The negative consequences of a DUI or DWI conviction can follow a person for the rest of their lives, so don't get caught up in an unlawful charge at a sobriety checkpoint.
If you have been charged with a DWI or DUI after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, you must speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Texas court is strict on punishment for drunk drivers, and the conviction remains on the record permanently- impacting employment options, the ability to get a loan, and much more. You are almost certain to lose your driver's license and could face significant fines and jail time.
Contact the dedicated, aggressive legal team for a free consultation and learn more about your rights. DUI checkpoints are illegal in Texas at any time of day or night- and Sparks Law Team is here to fight for your rights.