FAQ - Sobriety Checkpoints
A: Sobriety checkpoints are roadblocks set up by law enforcement officers on the side of public roadways. During the operation of the sobriety checkpoint, officers stop every vehicle, or a certain grouping of vehicles, and question drivers to gauge whether the drivers are intoxicated. If an officer believes that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the officer will detain the driver and administer field sobriety tests. After the field sobriety tests, the officer may have the driver take a breath test. Sobriety checkpoints can be set up at any time, but they tend to be at night, they are usually on weekend nights, and they are often used around holidays and special events.
Q: Are sobriety checkpoints an effective way to enforce DUI / OVI laws?
A: Compared to other methods of enforcing DUI / OVI laws, sobriety checkpoints are not very effective. The purposes of sobriety checkpoints are to deter, detect, and punish intoxicated drivers. Although there is not a lot of data to indicate the effectiveness of deterring drunk drivers, there is data regarding the detection and punishment of drivers charged with DUI / OVI during sobriety checkpoints. Records are kept by law enforcement agencies regarding the number of people charged with DUI / OVI at every sobriety checkpoint. These records indicate that, in central Ohio, only a small percentage of drivers that pass through sobriety checkpoints are charged with DUI / OVI. Meanwhile, hundreds of innocent drivers are hassled in the process. It would be far more effective to use take the officers away from the sobriety checkpoint and simply have them patrol for drunk drivers.
Q: Are there rules that officers must follow regarding sobriety checkpoints?
A: There are rules and regulations that establish guidelines for officers to properly conduct sobriety checkpoints. The United States Supreme Court upheld the validity of sobriety checkpoints, and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published recommended procedures relating to sobriety checkpoints. In order for a sobriety checkpoint to be legal, officers must follow certain guidelines. These guidelines include: 1) the location of the sobriety checkpoint; 2) the operation and procedure used at the sobriety checkpoint; and 3) the publicity of the sobriety checkpoint. Furthermore, the detention of drivers at sobriety checkpoints must be based upon reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and any subsequent arrest must be justified by probable cause to believe the driver committed a crime.
Q: How can a DUI / OVI attorney help with a case involving a sobriety checkpoint?
A: There are many things a DUI / OVI attorney can do when a case originates from a sobriety checkpoint. An attorney should review the records related to the sobriety checkpoint to determine if the checkpoint was properly conducted. Furthermore, a DUI / OVI attorney can evaluate whether subsequent field sobriety tests and/or breath tests were administered legally and in compliance with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Department of Health regulations. If the sobriety checkpoint and/or subsequent field sobriety tests and breath tests do not comply with regulations, any evidence obtained during the sobriety checkpoint stop may be inadmissible ("thrown out"), which means it cannot be used as evidence in the DUI / OVI case.
Our practice is focused on DUI / OVI defense, we have experience with cases involving sobriety checkpoints, and we represent clients that are contesting DUI / OVI charges in Columbus and central Ohio. For more information about our practice, please see the firm overview. You can also see what clients say and review our past case results. We limit the number of cases we accept so we can provide outstanding service to our clients. If you would like to discuss how we can help with your DUI / OVI, EMAIL US or call us at 614-717-1177 to arrange a free consultation.