Out on Florida's highways, especially at night or on the weekends,
law enforcement personnel are setting up more and more sobriety checkpoints
in an attempt to catch drunk drivers. While this might seem like a good
cause, these traffic stops are notorious for causing a handful of other
serious legal issues, such as unlawful search-and-seizures. If you are
planning to hit the town with your friends for a drink, there are five
things you should know about sobriety checkpoints before you go.
1. Officers Cannot Pick and Choose
The purpose of a sobriety checkpoint is to catch everyone going down that
stretch of road during that stretch of time and determine if they are
intoxicated while operating their motor vehicle. And that really does mean
everyone. If you see some motorists going through the checkpoint without so much
as a glance from one of the officers, this could indicate that the traffic
stop is not valid.
2. Checkpoints Cannot Be Speed Traps
A speed trap is when an officer waits alongside the road, perhaps in the
shade of a tree, and uses a radar gun to catch speeding motorists. They
are operating with subtlety, something officers are prohibited from doing
at traffic stops. If there are no clear indicators of the sobriety checkpoint
coming up ahead, it might not be considered legal in court.
3. Forewarning to All Motorists
In most cases, there must be some public record that speaks of the law
enforcements intent to set up a sobriety checkpoint. Oftentimes, this
can be found on the sheriff department's website or through road signs
a few days ahead of time. If there is no warning of the checkpoint, any
stop they make could be deemed unlawful and ultimately unusable.
4. Pulled Over is Not the Same as Arrested
Many drivers start to panic the moment they are asked to pull their vehicle
to the side of the road during a sobriety checkpoint. Keep in mind, however,
that the officer might want to speak to you further about something entirely
driving under the influence (DUI) charge. You might have a taillight out, or you could have a car similar
to one they are trying to find. Remember: you are not under arrest until
the officer says so.
5. Field Sobriety Tests are Optional
If you are asked to step out of your vehicle and perform a field sobriety
test, remember that you have the right to refuse without any definite
recourse against you. However, if the officer does ask that you take a
chemical test (blood, breath, or urine) at any point, due to the "implied
consent" law, your refusal will likely result in an immediate revocation
of your driver's license.
When everything is said and done, sobriety checkpoints in Florida can be
a simple situation if you remember your rights and stay calm. If you are
arrested for whatever reason at a traffic stop, though, you need to take
legal action as soon as you can. With the help of a Sarasota DUI attorney
from The Law Office of Wyndel G. Darville, PLLC, you may be able to have
your charges reduced or dismissed.
In my 15+ years of legal experience in Sarasota, during which I have handled
more than 150 jury trials, I have learned several ways of dismantling
the accusations that bear down on my clients, from proving that the sobriety
checkpoint was unlawful to challenging the results of chemical tests.
The bottom line is that I am ready and willing to fight on your behalf
and pursue justice wherever it is needed most. Schedule your
free 30-minute case review to learn about your
criminal defense options with my firm.
today so we can start building a defense against whatever the prosecution
tries to throw at you.