Written by attorney James Robert Parrish

How to Handle Virginia Sobriety Checkpoints

You know the feeling: even if you haven’t been drinking, seeing a stationary sobriety checkpoint ahead on the road while driving at night can make you more than a bit nervous (or remind you that you just rolled a stop sign, that your registration just expired, etc). However, here are a few things to do if you encounter a stationary sobriety checkpoint in Virginia:

21. Don't panic.

Slow down and proceed normally until you are actually stopped by an officer.

And whatever you do, don’t try to pull a U-turn and drive away! Even if you haven’t been drinking and just want to avoid a delay, this draws attention to your car. The officers conducting the checkpoint will likely radio someone to find the car that went to such lengths to avoid the checkpoint.e car that went to such lengths to avoid the checkpoint. 2. Proceed? Chances are you won’t even be stopped. Federal law states that police can’t detain every car—they’ll be using a mathematical formula to determine which cars to pull over and they must maintain a copy of the formula in case the checkpoint is challenged. 3. Just do what they tell you. If you are detained, it’s just like being pulled over. Normally when you’re pulled over I don’t advise having your license/registration ready (because it can imply you are often pulled over and "know the drill"), but in this kind of situation it can’t hurt. They will most likely ask for these documents, so just pull them out of the glovebox while you’re waiting. 4. Don’t say much to the officer. Federal law states they must minimize the amount of time they detain you. This means they can only ask you to step out of your vehicle and take a field sobriety test if the officer feels you exhibit obvious signs of intoxication: glassy eyes, slurred speech, smell of alcohol in the car, etc. Remember, even saying something to the effect of “I’ve only had one drink," (which, yes, it’s possible to do and be under the legal limit) can be interpreted as a confession or lead to further questioning. 5. Be cooperative. Step out of the car if they ask you to. Remember, Virginia has Implied Consent, meaning if you choose to drive on Virginia roads, this implies you consent to sobriety testing. So basically if they want to give you a field sobriety test, you just need to roll with it. Agencies are required to announce a stationary sobriety checkpoint or DUI-directed patrol (A “DUI-directed patrol" basically means that instead of one stationary checkpoint, several patrol cars will saturate an area, while on the lookout for cars exhibiting signs of impaired driving). Keep an eye on local newspapers and government websites for announcements. Checkpoints/patrols are often located on major roadways connecting bar districts, on the way out of town, etc., and are often scheduled for weekends or around major holidays. If you are charged with a DUI, I encourage you to contact an experienced attorney. This is a criminal charge taken very seriously in the state of Virginia.

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