'Tis the Season for DUI Checkpoints!

The holidays are fast approaching, and there are more and more reasons why individuals might find themselves a few drinks deep somewhere other than their homes. You can rest assured that local police departments will be conducting roadblocks in the coming weeks to deter people from getting in their cars and driving home after a night of drinking. But anyone who has taken a basic law class or read the Constitution knows that law enforcement can't just pull a vehicle over for no reason at all. There must be "reasonable suspicion" that criminal activity is afoot. Without reasonable suspicion, officers cannot stop a citizen in his travels.

Well, sort of. Because courts have carved out many exceptions to this fundamental Constitutional principle. And one of these exceptions is for DUI roadblocks, or checkpoints.

Courts in Virginia (and just about everywhere else), allow DUI checkpoints under certain very limited guidelines because of the state's interest in protecting the public from drunk drivers. That being said, DUI checkpoints must adhere to very strict rules, or the arrests from the operation can be dismissed in court.

Individual police officers do not have the authority to set up a DUI checkpoint on their own. Instead, the checkpoint must be conducted in accordance with a plan approved by the police department at the highest levels, and must limit the discretion of the police officers. For example, the plan must establish what time the checkpoint will be conducted, where it will be conducted, and how vehicles will be selected for stop (e.g. stop every third vehicle). If the plan is not specific, or if the plan is not followed, the results can be thrown out of court as an unlawful stop.

If you have been stopped at a DUI checkpoint, contact our office right away. We will fight at every turn to find error in the handling of the checkpoint. DUI checkpoints do more to snarl traffic than they do to deter drunk drivers. We fight every DUI aggressively; but where checkpoints and roadblocks are in play, we have more ammunition than ever!

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