DUI Checkpoints

Christian Van Riper

Timothy C. Nies

"Wouldn't it be comforting to know that your DUI defense attorney cares as much about your case as you do?"

DUI Checkpoints in Martin County Florida

DUI checkpoints in Florida are used by law enforcement officers to enforce laws against drinking and driving. DUI checkpoints are legal in the state of Florida, and are commonly used.

At DUI checkpoints or “sobriety checkpoints”, police officers stop each driver, or a specific number of drivers, to check for signs of impairment. Such checkpoints are used to deter drivers from drinking and driving, and, of course, to arrest drivers who are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These checkpoints are usually scheduled during holidays, or on weekends, when there is a significant volume of vehicles on the road and drivers who are likely to drink.

Law enforcement officers will look for signs of impairment if you are stopped. Typical signs of impairment officers will look for include:

  • the smell of alcohol or drugs (e.g., marijuana),
  • the presence of open alcohol containers within the passenger compartments of vehicles,
  • slurred or slow speech,
  • erratic movements or fumbling for documents such as your license, registration, insurance card, etc. (as stated below, you should always keep these in an easily accessible location),
  • admission of alcohol or drug use (if stopped, you can expect to be asked if you had anything to drink),
  • depressed mood,
  • disheveled appearance,
  • failure to follow instructions,
  • glossy eyes.

A fairly recent checkpoint by the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) in Stuart, Florida, resulted in nearly 600 vehicles stopped at a “safety and sobriety checkpoint”. According to  FHP, the checkpoint resulted in several DUI arrests, and nearly a dozen other traffic arrests and many non-moving violation citations, including a citation for failure to wear a seatbelt.

Many states in the U.S. have questioned the constitutionality and the DUI arrest rates made at these stations. These are the reasons why some states have made these stations illegal under their law. These states cite the Fourth Amendment’s protection against search and seizure that take place without probable cause.

In 1990, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the encroachment on the Fourth Amendment is overshadowed by the need of the public to be informed of the risks of drunk driving. The Court added that these DUI checkpoints should follow specific guidelines for them to be considered legal.

  • A formula , or method, should determine the number of vehicles on the road to be stopped.  For example, every 3rd car will be stopped, or every 5th car, etc.
  • The safety of the public and officers are of the upmost importance.
  • Policymakers determine the location of these checkpoints based on statistics.
  • There should be obvious visible warning lights and signs informing drivers of the checkpoint by law enforcement.
  • Duration of the stop by law enforcement should be limited.
  • Drivers should be detained for the minimum period of time possible.
  • Police agencies should publish the date, time and location of such checkpoints, “safety and sobriety checkpoints,” or “ “sobriety roadblocks” as they are oftentimes referred to.  Oftentimes, these stops are published in papers, announcements made over the radio or on law enforcement agencies’ websites.

What should you do to when you encounter a DUI checkpoint in Florida? Here some simple tips you can follow.

  • Slow down and drive normally until you are actually stopped by a police officer. Do not ever try to pull a U-turn and drive away as surely this will catch their attention.  Oftentimes, police cruisers, marked or unmarked, are set up to catch those attempting to avoid the checkpoint.
  • Make sure you are wearing your seatbelt.
  • Proceed normally through the checkpoint, paying special attention to any signals of the officers.  You may not even be stopped.
  • Be polite if stopped. Do not talk on your cell phone. Turn off your radio.
  • Be prepared to show your license, registration and insurance cards. Always try to keep your insurance card and registration in easily accessible places so you do not have to rummage through your glove compartment. 
  • Do not speak with the officer unless he speaks with you. Federal law states that checkpoints should minimize the period of time they detain a driver.
  • The officer may ask to search your vehicle. You have the same exact rights you would have in a normal traffic stop. By law, you have the right to remain silent and the right to refuse a search of your car.  You also have the right to refuse to participate in field sobriety tests.
  • If you participate in field sobriety tests, please remember that you  will likely be videotaped by the law enforcement officers, usually by way of a cruiser’s dash-mounted camera.
  • Also, in Florida, if you are transported in a cruiser following a DUI, you will likely be transported in a special cruiser with a rear seat video and microphone that will record anything you say and video your actions. Therefore, remain calm and do not speak or ask the officer any questions. Your video will likely be shown at your trial.
  • If you are arrested, politely refuse to answer any questions, until you speak with your attorney.

For more information about our criminal defense firm, and for a free consultation concerning your case, call Christian Van Riper at 772-283-8712 day or night, complete the contact form below or email Christian directly at vanriper01@yahoo.com.

Van Riper and Nies Attorneys
900 SE Ocean Boulevard, Suite 140-E
Stuart, FL 34994
Tel: 772-283-8712

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Stuart FL DUI defense lawyers at  Law Offices of Van Riper and Nies Attorneys, P.A. represents defendants charged with DUI or DWI after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Martin County. Defense of DWI arrest after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in Martin County Florida.  Stuart FL Accident Lawyers: Van Riper and Nies Attorneys, P.A. 

Our attorneys are experienced in ensuring that Florida Highway Patrol, Martin County Sheriff's Office and Stuart Police Department officers abide by the U.S. Supreme Court case on DUI checkpoints, also known as "sobriety checkpoints". 

West Palm Beach, Stuart and Deerfield Beach Criminal lawyers, Divorce lawyers and Personal Injury Lawyers: Van Riper and Nies Attorneys, P.A