You probably know that a police officer can normally only initiate a traffic stop when the officer witnesses a traffic violation, notices a vehicle defect that could affect its safety or observes a pattern of behavior that suggests the driver of a car may be impaired by drugs or alcohol.
However, sobriety checkpoints are specifically allowed under the guidelines used by the Colorado Department of Transportation so long as certain rules are observed. These include:
- They must be publicized in advance
- The checkpoint must not require drivers to stop in an unsafe area
- Drivers must be given adequate notice that they are approaching one of the checkpoints
- Officers must be uniformed and visible
- The checkpoints must be minimally inconvenient
- The process of choosing which vehicles to stop must be consistent and nondiscriminatory
Checkpoints proceed much like an ordinary traffic stop, except that the sole focus is to try to determine if you might be impaired. The officer will inform you that the sobriety checkpoint is being enforced and is allowed to ask if you have been drinking or have used a controlled substance that day.
If you say yes, that opens the door to further questions. The officer will ask what you have consumed and when you consumed it. If the officer decides that a more careful investigation is in order, you will likely be subjected to roadside sobriety testing and some form of chemical testing, such as a Breathalyzer or blood test.
What’s the best way, then, to handle these checkpoints? Aside from not drinking and driving or using any controlled substances and driving, you need to remember the following:
- You cannot lie to the police about where you have been or what you may have consumed
- You can, however, refuse to answer any questions that could potentially incriminate you
- You can also refuse to submit to any roadside sobriety tests, like the walk-and-turn test or the test that requires you to balance on one leg
Naturally, it may make you uncomfortable to refuse to provide the police with information or to participate in roadside testing. However, it is your right — and one that you should zealously protect.
If you are charged with driving under the influence after a stop at a sobriety checkpoint, our law office can protect your rights. Please contact us today for more information.