What Happens During a Sobriety Checkpoint?

Posted by James Ferguson | Sep 07, 2018 | 0 Comments

Sobriety checkpoints are permitted in the state of Mississippi as a matter of public safety. Sobriety checkpoints are established by police departments and state transportation agencies to combat DUI offenses. Given the connection to public safety, police officers do not need individualized suspicion to stop drivers. The need for individualized suspicion or probable cause stems from Fourth Amendment requirements and its pronouncement against unlawful search and seizure.  However, a landmark federal case on the issue has concluded that law enforcement officers do not run afoul of the 4th Amendment given the random and limited nature of the stop. Even so, drivers are correct to question the breadth of police rights in such instances and when the legal randomized check has crossed into Fourth Amendment territory.

 What Happens at a Sobriety Checkpoint?

Law enforcement departments sometimes erect sobriety checkpoints on random roadways, usually at night. These checkpoints are more likely seen during holiday weekends or special events where there is a higher chance of encountering possible offenders. Although law enforcement officers will say that sobriety checkpoints are erected in random areas, it is more likely that a checkpoint will pop up in a high DUI offense area. In essence, the checkpoint is a made-man roadblock. An officer will speak to drivers and look for signs of intoxication. If no sign of intoxication is detected, a driver is free to go. Sometimes police officers will deploy drug sniffing K-9 units as part of the check. If the officer detects signs any of intoxication, probable cause arises for the officer to conduct a more thorough examination of the driver.

 What are Your Rights During a Sobriety Checkpoint?

Given the public safety aim of sobriety checkpoints, each driver is required to stop his or her vehicle when instructed by a police officer at a checkpoint. Refusal to stop is likened to the criminal act of evading a police officer. It is important to note that your full constitutional rights are still operative during sobriety checkpoints. If a drug-sniffing dog is deployed, you must not feel the need to waive any rights. The best policy is to stop and cooperate. If you are not intoxicated, the interaction is a quick one. If the officer does not have probable cause to believe that you are intoxicated, then he or she cannot search your person or your car unless you give consent. Similarly, you are not under any obligation to confess to a crime. If you are arrested at a checkpoint, be sure to contact an attorney before signing any documents or before making a statement.

Your DUI Attorney
Attorney James Robert Ferguson is a seasoned DUI attorney with years of experience litigating alcohol and drug DUI cases. Driving under the influence is a serious crime. If you have been charged with DUI, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Attorney Ferguson understands that the stakes are high and the importance of putting the charges behind you. If your rights were violated during a law enforcement stop, it is necessary to address how that may affect your charges. Call us now for a consultation.

See related blog posts:
Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal in Mississippi?
What to do if Stopped by Police

About the Author

James Ferguson

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. During college, I studied at East Tennessee State University, where I received a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice, which I then followed up with a Master's in Criminology from the University of Memphis. Before beginning my legal career, I worked as a Project Coordinator at the University of Memphis, where I assisted in training law enforcement officers in the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Training. The purpose of the project was to provide officers with the tools to deal with citizens in a state of mental crisis. I then went on to study law at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. During law school, I clerked with Victor W. Carmody, Jr., the lawyer who wrote the book on DUI law in Mississippi. I am currently licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi, and spend a majority of my time traveling the highways and biways of Mississippi defending those who have been charged with a DUI.


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