Do you have to stop at or drive through a sobriety checkpoint?

| Sep 2, 2020 | OUI |

You’re headed home from a dinner date or maybe a business meeting. You had a beer or cocktail, but you feel like you are okay to drive. However, your confidence quickly evaporates as you look ahead and realize that you will soon have to pass through a sobriety checkpoint, also sometimes called a DUI roadblock.

Officers will have the street mostly closed off to control the flow traffic. They will briefly speak with every driver to check them for visible signs of impairment, such as glassy eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol. If they suspect that someone is under the influence, they will have them pull over to the side and conduct a more thorough stop.

If you encounter a police sobriety checkpoint, do you have an obligation to drive through it?

In most cases, you don’t have an obligation to talk to the police ahead

If you notice a sobriety checkpoint while you are still a bit away from it, you theoretically have the option of changing the route that you take. You can pull into a parking lot and turn around in order to avoid the hassle of a sobriety checkpoint.

It’s worth noting, however, that if officers see you turn around to avoid the checkpoint, they may alert other nearby officers about your attempt to avoid the roadblocks. That could lead to those other officers conducting a one-on-one traffic stop.

Is a sobriety checkpoint a violation of your civil rights?

It is common for those facing impaired driving charges because of a sobriety checkpoint to feel like the police have violated their rights. However, simply conducting a roadblock or checkpoint is not a violation of your basic civil rights, and your Constitutional rights still apply during this kind of traffic stop.

Both the Massachusetts state government and the federal government recognize sobriety checkpoints as valid and necessary enforcement tools to promote public safety. Still, just because you can’t challenge your charges based on the fact that you were caught up in a sobriety checkpoint doesn’t mean that you have no defense options. Challenging the evidence against you or providing an alternate explanation for certain behaviors could create enough reasonable doubt to help you avoid a conviction.