Rules & Regulations for DUI Checkpoints in Florida
One purpose of a sobriety checkpoint includes eliminating imminent accidents and threats to other drivers on Florida roads. Another purpose is to deter potentially impaired drivers from operating motor vehicles. Both are noble purposes, but are DUI checkpoints legal in Florida?
There are laws officers must follow during traffic stops over on the open roads and arresting you for DUI. These laws are not necessarily the same for state DUI checkpoints. Read ahead for more information about Florida’s rules and regulations for DUI checkpoints.
Are DUI Checkpoints in Florida Legal?
Florida drivers frequently question the legalities of a DUI checkpoint in the Sunshine State. Are DUI checkpoints legal in Florida? There is an unfortunate multitude of false and misleading information online regarding DUI checkpoints and their legal standing. While DUI checkpoints are not legal in every U.S. state, they are, in fact, legal in Florida. Officers staffing them are also do not require probable cause for stopping your vehicle inside the checkpoint. However, DUI checkpoint Florida laws require police to obey specific rules and regulations as per a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
DUI checkpoints are set up and organized with local and/or state authorities' express legal consent. This means any DUI checkpoint you see ahead of you is legal and looking specifically for impaired drivers in a high-risk zone. Checkpoint guidelines are established and followed. For example, locations are selected based on risk and perhaps recently increased DUI activity in the area. For another example, they do not check every vehicle. A limited number of consecutive cars are allowed to pass through each checkpoint, while a predetermined number has to stop. This helps prevent profiling and prejudice. This process only deviates when:
• A driver shows signs of impairment.
• A vehicle displays irregularities or illegalities such as an expired inspection sticker or tag.
• A driver or any passenger shows signs of illegal activities or abnormal duress.
In the event a checkpoint officer perceives any of the reasons listed above to be valid and actionable, the offending vehicle undergoes a search based on such reasonable suspicions and active state laws. Regulations also require Florida DUI checkpoint dates and locations to go public in advance online, in a newspaper, or some other publicly visible manner. While this perhaps seems counterintuitive to a DUI checkpoint's purpose, it is the only way the U.S. Supreme Court allows checkpoints to operate.
Can You Legally Turn Around at a DUI Checkpoint?
DUI checkpoint Florida regulations permit drivers to avoid checkpoints via available legal traffic maneuvers. Similar to the advanced public announcements required when planning a DUI checkpoint, signs indicating such must be on the roads warning drivers of the upcoming situation. Turning legally at a traffic light before arriving at a checkpoint and even performing a legally permitted U-turn to avoid a DUI checkpoint are acceptable legal traffic maneuvers. Florida police may not punish or pursue motor vehicles legally turning around or otherwise evading a DUI checkpoint unless said motor vehicles are doing so recklessly or breaking other laws in the process. Performing an unauthorized U-turn, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, or speeding away recklessly are all illegal traffic-based actions in normal daily driving. Performing one or more of those illegal actions as a means to avoid a DUI checkpoint causes compounded legal issues and gives checkpoint officers probable cause to pursue.
While DUI checkpoint locations are publicly announced and selected based on locational risk factors, they choose each checkpoint location carefully. Often, these locations leave little room for legal maneuvering away from the blockades once vehicles drive within close proximity to them. Driving away from a DUI checkpoint in Florida is legal when using legal means to do so. In a situation where legal recourse for evasion is not available, Florida law mandates driving through the DUI checkpoint as your only option.
Can You Decline to Answer Police Questions?
The right to remain silent when questioned by the police is a conditional guarantee in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This right is set in place as a means to protect U.S. citizens from accidentally or illegally coerced self-incrimination. Miranda Rights, which have similar protections in mind, include your right to have an attorney present during the interrogation. Is it legal for you to decline to answer police questions at a DUI checkpoint in Florida?
It is indeed legal for you to decline to answer police questions at a Florida DUI checkpoint. Is it beneficial to you, however? If the police choose to question you at a checkpoint, they are doing so based on legally permitted checkpoint guidelines or reasonable probable cause of a crime being committed. Police officers perceive your refusal to answer their questions as an indication of guilt at a DUI checkpoint.
Officers commonly ask selected drivers if they have had anything to drink as they pass through the DUI checkpoint. Responding by saying, “I choose not to answer that question,” is a polite way of asserting your rights without sitting in awkward silence before a crew of trained officers specifically looking for suspicious or illegal behavior. Silence as a legal right and non-compliance with officers are not the same things. Law officers are not fond of either, but one is legal, and the other is detrimentally actionable. There is also a difference between choosing the right to remain silent and refusing to take a breathalyzer or blood test.
What to Do After Being Pulled Over at a DUI Checkpoint?
If pulled over at a Florida DUI checkpoint and fully innocent of being impaired, the simple thing to do is comply with all reasonable officer-made requests. Remember, it is their right to pull you over as per local and state guidelines. Officers are highly trained to spot signs of impairment and illegal activity. If you are innocent and operating a fully legal motor vehicle, speaking directly to the officer, and complying with requests to show your Florida driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance is usually all it takes to pass through without incident. However, if you have been drinking, what do you do after they pull you over at a DUI checkpoint?
Florida implied consent law states all drivers accepting the privilege of operating a motor vehicle in the state consent to all approved tests when suspected of being impaired while driving. Approved tests include the infrared, breathalyzer test, and blood alcohol tests used by law enforcement. It is also your right to refuse to take a breathalyzer or blood test. Doing so prevents an officer’s ability to charge you with a DUI. Still, it also comes at the mandatory price of a maximum one-year suspension of your driving privileges as a first-time offender.
Charges and penalties are significantly worse for second and third-time offenders. Officers occasionally ask drivers to take alternate field sobriety tests such as the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. These tests are not mandatory, so there are no penalties for refusing to take them.
- Silence is different than non-compliance
- Cooperate with requests to provide appropriate legal documentation
- It is unnecessary to comply with requests to take non-state-approved field sobriety tests
- It is your right to request a blood test in place of a breathalyzer test
- When refusing to take a breathalyzer or blood test for the first time, expect a driver’s license suspension, at a minimum, but no DUI charges are possible
- When refusing to take a breathalyzer or blood test as a repeat offender, additional driver’s license suspensions and punishments, including jail time, are possible
- Consult a specialized DUI attorney at your first opportunity
If you have been arrested or charged for a DUI in South Florida, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney in South Florida to protect your rights.