Protect your interests when you're pulled over
You're driving on US 27, US 192, State Road 17, or another road or highway in Polk County when you see a sign warning you of a DUI checkpoint ahead. Do you know what your rights are?
The first thing you need to know is that police DUI checkpoints are generally legal and constitutional in the state of Florida. The police are allowed to set them up, and you have to stop and pull over if you're asked to do so, or you could be arrested. However, the police also have to follow certain rules at checkpoints, and you need to know your rights to protect them.
You can legally evade a DUI checkpoint — as long as you only use legal traffic maneuvers.
If you know a DUI checkpoint is coming up, there's no law that says you can't avoid it! If it's possible to exit the highway, go down a side street or even make a legal U-turn to evade the checkpoint, then you're allowed to do so. The police can't pull you over for doing that, even if you make a U-turn right in front of them, because they don't have reasonable suspicion that a law has been violated.
To be absolutely clear, this only works if you don't break any traffic laws. If you make an illegal U-turn to avoid a DUI checkpoint, for example, the police can and probably will pull you over for the illegal U-turn. So, if you're going to evade a checkpoint, make absolutely sure you don't violate any other traffic laws in the process. If you can't evade the checkpoint without breaking any traffic laws, then you have no choice but to go through it and stop if you're asked to stop.
You have the right to be treated fairly and reasonably.
Again, the police can't just do whatever they want at a DUI checkpoint. If the checkpoint is unreasonably slowing down traffic, for instance, they have to shut it down. More importantly for your individual rights, the police have to use a random and fair system to pull people over at a checkpoint, such as pulling over every fourth car. Otherwise, they need reasonable suspicion, as they would for any other traffic stop.
If the police use a DUI checkpoint as a pretext to target specific drivers without reasonable suspicion, that is a violation of your civil rights. To be clear, even if you suspect you're being profiled or targeted, it's still best to comply, but you should also take note of what happened and call a lawyer right away. A good DUI defense attorney should be able to get any evidence obtained by the police under those circumstances thrown out.
You have the right to remain silent.
You do have to cooperate with the police to some extent; for example, if they ask to see your license and registration, you need to show them. However, as always when you're pulled over, you don't have to answer any questions beyond giving them your name and address. You can assert your Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate yourself.
That said, silence can easily be mistaken for non-compliance, and you don't want to escalate the situation. If you don't want to answer a question, be polite but firm: "I decline to answer that question."
Arrested at a DUI checkpoint? Get Grajek!
DUI checkpoints can serve a legitimate public safety purpose, but too often, they're used as an excuse to violate people's rights under Florida and federal law. If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint and charged with DUI or another crime, you need an experienced defense lawyer on your side to challenge the evidence and undermine the prosecution's case. Give me a call or use the online contact form to schedule your free consultation.