Law enforcement agencies use DWI checkpoints as a tactic to curb drunk driving on North Carolina roads. Although the goal of these checkpoints is to improve safety, from a driver’s perspective, they can be frustrating.
Many drivers do not know what to do at these checkpoints. They are not sure of their legal rights ─ especially when asked to get out of the car, perform field sobriety tests, and submit to a breath test.
If you have been arrested at a DWI checkpoint, you need to speak to a knowledgeable North Carolina DWI defense lawyer today. There may be many opportunities to identify problems in the way officers handled your arrest and fight the charges against you. Contact the dedicated DWI lawyers at Kurtz & Blum now to get an experienced advocate in your corner.
What Is a DWI Checkpoint?
Also known as a sobriety checkpoint, a DUI roadblock, or a checking station, a DWI checkpoint is set up to randomly screen drivers for signs of driving while impaired. Police must follow a pattern when stopping cars at a checkpoint, such as stopping every third car. They do not have to have “probable cause” to stop vehicles at a checkpoint.
Police may ask for the driver’s license, registration, and insurance information. In some cases, they may ask questions, such as: Have you had anything to drink tonight? Where are you coming from? Where are you heading? They may also ask a driver to step out of the car and perform field sobriety tests. They may then ask a driver to take a preliminary breath test.
Drivers have rights at these checkpoints. If you were arrested at a DWI roadblock, you should speak with a skilled defense attorney right away.
What Happens If You Refuse at a DWI Checkpoint?
If you are driving and see a DWI roadblock up ahead, it can be tempting to take a quick turn to avoid it. However, you should know that officers have a right to go after you if you make a move to avoid a roadblock. Although from your perspective, it can be a simple move to save time, from their perspective, it can seem suspicious.
You should also never refuse to stop and run through a roadblock. Officers will be prepared to chase any vehicles that attempt this.
What to Do at a DWI Checkpoint
You should always stop at the checkpoint. Turning away from or running through the checkpoint will be a trigger for police to chase you down. When you stop at the checkpoint, roll your window down and keep your hands on the wheel for the officer to see.
You should give your license to the officer. It is a good idea to keep your license and registration easily accessible in your glovebox. This way you are not scrambling to find it in front of the officer.
You should get out if the officer asks you. An officer may ask you to step out of the vehicle. If you refuse, you may be facing more serious charges.
You may refuse field sobriety tests. These tests, such as walking a line heel-to-toe or standing on one leg, are difficult for anyone. Yet officers may use them as evidence that you are intoxicated. You have the right to refuse these tests.
You may refuse a preliminary breath test. At a DWI checkpoint, an officer may ask you to blow into a portable preliminary breath test (PBT) device. You should refuse this test, as the results can be used as justification for your arrest. Refusing this test does not carry the same penalties as refusing a Breathalyzer that would be given at a police station after an arrest. In fact, without these test results, the officer has less evidence to support a DWI charge against you.
Stay calm and be polite, but don’t talk. No matter how frustrated or frightened you are, keep your cool. Be cooperative when officers ask for basic information such as your name and where you live, but do not try to explain how much you’ve had to drink or what you have been doing.
NC Law on DWI Checking Stations and Roadblocks
North Carolina law dictates how law enforcement agencies can set up DWI checking stations and roadblocks. Agencies must:
- Determine a pattern for stopping vehicles in advance. The pattern cannot be based on a particular vehicle type.
- Determine a pattern for requesting drivers to produce their driver’s license, registration, or insurance information.
- Operate under a written policy that establishes guidelines for the pattern.
- Choose the placement of checkpoints at random or statistically. Agencies should avoid placing checkpoints repeatedly in the same location or proximity.
- Advise the public that an authorized DWI checking station is being operated by having at least one law enforcement vehicle with its blue light on at the checking station.
Individual officers do not have the discretion to decide which vehicles are stopped and which drivers are asked for their license, registration, or insurance information. However, officers can decide there is reasonable suspicion to detain a driver and investigate further once stopped.
Arrested? Talk to a DWI Checkpoint Lawyer Now
After an arrest at a DWI checkpoint, there are many ways an experienced attorney can challenge the evidence that police gathered and argue for your charges to be reduced or dropped. However, you need to speak with a knowledgeable DWI attorney as soon as possible about your legal rights. The sooner an attorney begins work on your case, the better.
At Kurtz & Blum, we have been fighting for the rights of Raleigh residents since 1998. We have successfully handled many DWI checkpoint cases. Our seasoned attorneys have in-depth knowledge of the policies and procedures that must be followed in setting up these checkpoints, and we are quick to identify when mistakes have been made or rules have been broken.
Let us fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us now to schedule a confidential consultation so we can discuss the specific circumstances of your case and craft a plan for how we can help you.