You’ve probably been through one before. A long string of vehicles being stopped to be questioned by police—a DUI checkpoint. Also known as sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks, the legality of DUI stops has been questioned for years. While certain laws would suggest that DUI checkpoints should be illegal, the United States Supreme Court ruled that these police stops do not actually violate a driver’s rights. However, under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, such a stop should actually be considered an illegal “seizure” of the driver, making it unconstitutional.
This has shrouded DUI checkpoints in controversy for many years. In a typical DUI case, a police officer must have reasonable cause or suspicion to pull an individual driver over. In the case of a DUI checkpoint in Denver, they are justified for public good under the ruling of the Supreme Court.
Why Are Checkpoints Used?
There are multiple reasons that police utilize DUI checkpoints. Whether there is a certain holiday going on (Fourth of July, Halloween, New Years, etc.) a big sports game going down, or even just a random Friday evening, police carefully plan sobriety stops around major roadways or heavy traffic areas. They use checkpoints to not only discourage drunk driving in Denver and all of Colorado, but to also catch people who may have been drinking and driving and never individually caught by officers.
You can use sources like the following to see updates on sobriety stops near you:
What to Expect at a DUI Checkpoint
If you do get stopped at a DUI checkpoint, it is important and helpful to know what to expect. Police must follow a specific pattern to ensure every driver is treated equally and no one is singled out. This may mean they stop every single car that passes, they stop every three cars, or they follow some similar type of pattern.
Drivers will be briefly “detained” (typically stopped in their vehicle) and questioned. Police are legally allowed to require a driver to present their license and registration—any other questions they ask are optional for the driver to answer. If police have reason to suspect a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may subject them to sobriety tests and eventually a breath or blood test.
Some of the possible reasons to suspect intoxication:
- Slurred speech
- Smell of alcohol or marijuana in the vehicle or on their breath
- Nervous actions or behavior
- Blood-shot eyes
- Admittance to drinking or using marijuana
- Impaired motor skills
- Any other strange or suspicious behavior
It is also important to note that all roadblocks must be conducted in an area where motorists have an alternative route to take—if they can legally use this alternative route, police cannot stop them. Taking this alternative route does not give police reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull you over. However, if you commit a traffic infraction (illegal U-turn) while trying to avoid the sobriety stop, police will have the right to pull you over.