What is A DUI Checkpoint?
A DUI checkpoint is a roadblock set up by police to check drivers for signs of intoxication. These checkpoints may also be called sobriety checkpoints, DUI roadblocks, mobile checkpoints, or something similar.
Some states prohibit such checkpoints, but the majority of the states, including Oklahoma, allow law enforcement to conduct DUI checkpoints.
DUI checkpoints are set up temporarily and at random locations. In Tulsa, this often happens around holidays or events when police are concerned that there might be an increase in intoxicated drivers on the road, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, New Year’s Eve, etc. Police may also set these checkpoints up on random dates. If not a holiday, these random days are normally on the weekends. DUI checkpoints in Tulsa are usually set up from around 10 p.m. to about 3 a.m. Tulsa DUI checkpoints are also usually announced a few days in advance so that the general public will be aware of them. Those announcements typically include the day that the checkpoint is to occur, as well as the area or areas in which checkpoints are to be set up.
Why do police conduct checkpoints?
According to the Tulsa Police Department, DUI checkpoints are “an effort to get intoxicated drivers off the road in order to reduce injuries and deaths as well as to raise awareness of the dangers caused by alcohol and drug-impaired driving.”
DUI checkpoints are often used by the police to find intoxicated drivers and get them off the road, thus preventing that driver from causing an accident later on that night. The publication of an upcoming DUI checkpoint also brings awareness that law enforcement will be present and may deter some people from driving intoxicated for fear of running into one of those checkpoints and getting a DUI.
What to expect when you encounter a checkpoint?
When you approach a DUI checkpoint, you will likely notice that there is a traffic sign alerting you to the DUI checkpoint ahead. Traffic will likely slow down and back up a little, as the officers process the vehicles coming through the checkpoint.
Once you reach the actual checkpoint, you may or may not get stopped by an officer. Some checkpoints are set up so that every single vehicle is stopped, and others are set up using a specific sequence or pattern to stop cars. This pattern might be to stop every other car, stop every fifth vehicle or some other predetermined pattern. If the particular checkpoint you are approaching is not stopping every car but has some other pattern, you may simply get waived through by an officer as you approach, and you will be on your way.
If your car is chosen to be stopped, the officer will likely ask you a few short questions to try and determine whether you may have been drinking. You will likely be asked for your license and the officer might also check the tag on your vehicle. The officer may do a quick visual check of the inside of your vehicle to see if there are any alcoholic beverages in plain sight.
The officer may just ask if you have been drinking. The officer may also ask some other questions like where you are headed or where you are coming from. While listening to your answers the officer may try to determine if there is incoherence or a slur in your speech. The officer will also be determining whether you show other signs of intoxication, like the smell of alcohol on your breath or the smell of alcohol emanating from your person or vehicle. The officer is also looking at your face to determine whether it appears flushed and whether your eyes appear bloodshot – both of which can be signs of intoxication. More broadly, the officer will observe whether you exhibit a lack of coordination.
If the officer determines that you are likely not intoxicated, you will be waived through and will be able to continue your journey.
If, however, the officer determines that you may be intoxicated or show signs of intoxication, he or she will likely ask you to pull to the side and submit to additional sobriety tests.
The officer will likely ask you to step out of your car and then may proceed with roadside sobriety tests. You may be asked to stand on one leg to check your balance. The officer may ask you to walk and turn to check your balance as you walk. You may be asked to touch your finger to your nose to observe your balance and concentration. You may also be asked to count and or recite the alphabet to check your concentration. The officer may conduct a test to evaluate your eye movement, called the Horizontal Nystagmus Test (HGN) (this is the test where you are asked to follow a finger or pen with your eyes from side to side while keeping your head straight).
If the officer determines that you are indeed intoxicated, you may get arrested and be asked to do either a breathalyzer test or a blood test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The legal limit in Oklahoma is 0.08. At this point you will almost certainly be charged with a DUI.
How should you behave during a checkpoint stop?
When approaching a checkpoint, stay patient and calm. Adjust your speed appropriately and start slowing down as you approach the checkpoint. Depending on which pattern the officers use to stop cars, you may not even get stopped. Have your DL and insurance verification easily accessible and at your disposal. Acting impatient or excessive shuffling for your DL may draw the officers’ attention to you.
If you get stopped, cooperate with the officer. As soon as you get stopped, roll down your window and be ready to hand your license and insurance to the officer. While interacting with the officer, be polite and courteous. Answer his or her questions promptly and directly, but do not volunteer information that is not asked for. Do not leave until the officer gives you the go-ahead to do so.
Should I try and avoid a checkpoint?
If you are immediately approaching a checkpoint, it is not illegal to turn to avoid it. If you do, an officer associated with the checkpoint may try to pull you over. Since it is not illegal to avoid a checkpoint, the officer will need an independent basis to stop your vehicle. If he does not observe a traffic infraction or other basis to pull you over, the illegal stop could be a basis to have your case thrown out.
Are there any ways to defend against a checkpoint?
Yes. The Tulsa DUI Guy is very familiar with the specific requirements law enforcement must comply with in order to operate a valid checkpoint. If law enforcement agencies fail to comply, the arrests could be thrown out. If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint, call our office immediately so we can review your case and start investigating the matter.