Tips for Avoiding Being Stopped at a “Sobriety Checkpoint” Roadblock & What to Do if You are Stopped
Avoiding Obvious Sobriety Checkpoint LocationsJust like spiders looking for flies, DUI Task Force officers in major metropolitan cities set up their roadblocks where they think their "prey" may be located. The federal government will not allow roadblocks on interstate highways, for a variety of reasons, starting with safety concerns. Hence, getting to the interstate for purposes of evading a roadblock is one basic strategy that many people employ to avoid being stopped and checked for alcohol. However, police are allowed to set up their traps at locations along major thoroughfares that lead to interstate highways and similar traffic arteries. They know that most drivers will seek access to an interstate, and will organize their sobriety checkpoints around this likelihood. If you have a programmable mapping (GPS) system in your vehicle, consider defaulting to the route home that utilizes secondary streets.
Late night locations, particularly dominated by bars and restaurants, generate a lot of police patrol and roadblock activityRestaurants and bars that remain open later than other establishments are typically ground zero for the creation of sobriety checkpoints by local or state police. This is a fairly obvious choice for these officers, in their quest to fulfill their quotas for the evening. If you live in a major city and many alcohol-serving businesses are staying open late, the odds are that this location is a prime spot for saturation patrols and for roadblocks.
A very useful tool that many people are currently utilizing to assist their fellow "bar-hoppers" is the microblogging site "Twitter," among others, to share real-time information about the location of these checkpoints. Since Twitter messages are instantaneous, real-time information can assist you in avoiding the inconvenience of a roadblock. Also be aware that these officers will move their roadblock locations on the same night sometimes in the same general vicinity to attempt to achieve their arrest objectives.
"Chase" cars are stationed at each roadblock location, to chase down any drivers who turn around or turn away from a roadblockVirtually every roadblock has an officer assigned to be the "Chase" car operator. He is waiting in an idling vehicle at a strategic vantage point to see any vehicles that may attempt to avoid the roadblock. These "chase" officers assume that ANY vehicle turning away from the roadblock is trying to avoid detection for possible impaired driving. Several cases across the US have held that citizens who do not wish to be delayed at a roadblock or citizens who believe they have happened upon an accident may find a safe, legal way to leave and not pass through the safety or sobriety checkpoint. Not every state's decisional laws follow this guideline closely, however. In one roadblock case handled by the author, the only roadway possible to turn upon as cars approached the roadblock was a horseshoe-shaped road that emptied back onto the same roadway. Any car that made that turn, even if the turn was legal, was pulled over by the chase car. This roadblock was declared to be illegal.
Common fact scenarios of cases where roadblocks have been declared unconstitutional. (I)(1) The person stopped who was turning away from the roadblock did so for a legitimate reason, and therefore committed no crime. This meant that the traffic stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion that any crime had been committed or was about to be committed. (2) The roadblock was not established by supervisory personnel in accordance with federal or state constitutional law. (3) The location of the roadblock was different from the approved location set up by supervisory personnel in the pre-roadblock documentation required by law. (4) Lack of proof that cars were being stopped systematically, by an inconsistent pattern of selected vehicles that were being stopped (e.g., every 3rd vehicle), indicating an arbitrary selection of vehicles to stop. (5) The screening officers at the roadway lacked sufficient training in DUI-DWI detection to assure that good probable cause decisions were being made at the checkpoint, so as not to inconvenience or delay innocent parties.
Common fact scenarios of cases where roadblocks have been declared unconstitutional. (II)(6) Roadblocks must be established for legitimate purposes, such as sobriety checkpoints. Attempts by screening officers to ask drivers about "general commission of all criminal acts" are improper and not authorized.
(7) Failure of the supervisory officers to gather with the "team" of officers to be utilized at the roadblock location to review the scope and the purposes of the checkpoint.
(8) Courts can also consider the quantity of proof an officer gathers once the suspected impaired driver is detained and asked to get out of the vehicle. By not admitting any consumption of alcohol or drugs, and by not participating in any voluntary field sobriety exercises, and by not getting into a verbal exchange wherein the officer can claim slurred speech, you may prevent the officer from gathering sufficient evidence to arrest you for DUI-DWI. Remember your right to remain silent, and ask to speak to an attorney.
Being smart about operating any vehicle at late night hours, when roadblocks are regularly utilizedAlways make sure that you do not have another issue relating to your "ability to drive away from the scene" of the roadblock, such as an expired or suspended driver's license, an expired tag or an expired inspection sticker. Don't get hauled in for being inattentive to being fully "legal" to be driving.
Remember that every random stop of a moving vehicle by police officers using their legal authority (e.g., using their emergency lights and traffic cones) is presumptively unconstitutional. Unless every "t" is crossed and every "i" is dotted, the roadblock can be declared illegal at a pre-trial motion hearing that is conducted in front of your assigned judge.
A skilled and tenacious attorney is needed to investigate and argue such a motion. Don't expect an attorney who is an expert in real estate or divorce law to be skilled at winning constitutional challenges to illegal roadblocks.