Sobriety checkpoints, also called DWI checkpoints, have become more common than ever in Carteret County. A sobriety checkpoint is a designated spot at which police officers stop drivers in an attempt to arrest people who are driving while intoxicated. Sobriety checkpoints are legal in North Carolina, but police officers don’t always protect driver’s rights at the checkpoints. Understanding your legal rights in advance can help you protect yourself.
Contact an Experienced DWI Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, it’s important to discuss your case with a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. Whether you’re facing a traffic offense, DWI, or DUI after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, attorney Joel Hancock is here to help. Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, to learn more about how we can protect your rights.
What Is a Sobriety Checkpoint?
Police officers set up sobriety checkpoints strategically on main roads with one goal: to find and arrest drunk drivers. Sobriety checkpoints can feel like a massive invasion of privacy, and many people wonder whether they are even legal. All vehicles are required to stop at sobriety checkpoints. Law enforcement officers can assess whether they think the driver they’ve stopped is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the police officers suspect that their driver has been drinking alcohol, they can perform a breathalyzer test or field sobriety tests to confirm.
If a driver refuses to go through alcohol testing and the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that he or she is under the influence of alcohol, the officer will most likely arrest the driver and immediately suspend his or her driving privileges. Even though DWI checkpoints feel like an invasion of your privacy, DWI roadblocks in North Carolina are legal under North Carolina law § 20-16.3A. It is legal for a police officer to issue tickets or charge drivers with other offenses not related to driving while intoxicated at the checkpoint. However, police officers can still violate drivers’ constitutional rights at legal sobriety checkpoints.
Limits on Law Enforcement Engaging in Sobriety Checkpoints
Under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, law enforcement must establish probable cause before questioning or detaining a citizen. The court has made a specific provision in the case of sobriety checkpoints to prevent innocent drivers from undergoing harsher attributes of law enforcement questioning. Law enforcement officers at sobriety checkpoints are required to follow national guidelines. Twelve states have outlined additional protocols officers must follow on top of the federal regulations.
One of these requirements is that the police force engaging in checkpoints must publicly state when and where the checkpoints will occur. Officers need to establish the checkpoint in writing and follow a detailed set of rules and guidelines, including how many cars police officers can stop at each sobriety checkpoint.
Additionally, officers cannot engage in profiling based on a driver’s sex, age, gender, race, or membership in another protected class. The checks need to be uniform, and drivers need to experience the same type of treatment, regardless of who they are. When police officers do not follow these guidelines, engage in police brutality, or otherwise violate a driver’s constitutional rights, the driver can request a dismissal of the charges against him or her.
What To Do If You Approach a Sobriety Checkpoint in Carteret County
Driving through a sobriety checkpoint down the road while driving can be nerve-racking, even if you haven’t had any alcohol. Knowing what to do while you go through a sobriety checkpoint can help you protect yourself and your rights. When you see the checkpoint, don’t turn around and try to avoid it. Doing so will look suspicious and give the officer a reason to pull you over and ask why you’re avoiding the checkpoint. Slow down as you approach the checkpoint, showing you have control over your vehicle.
Do not admit that you have been drinking alcohol. If you have been drinking alcohol, you have the right to remain silent and not acknowledge that you’ve been drinking. Politely state that you are not going to answer the question. If an officer asks to search your vehicle, you have the right to deny consent politely to a vehicle search. Do not drive away until the officer has permitted you, even if you have been unjustly stopped and questioned.
Should I Take a Breathalyzer Test in North Carolina?
If the officer wants to conduct a field sobriety test, you have the right to refuse the test. You can mention that your attorney has advised you against it. You don’t have to consent to a breathalyzer test, but if you don’t consent and you are eventually convicted, you may face stricter consequences and the possible loss of your driver’s license. If you decide to take the breathalyzer test, you have the right to have a witness watch the test being administered to you as long as you can get the witness to the police station within 30 minutes.
Even if you can’t get them to the station on time, you can still delay the test for half an hour, resulting in lower blood alcohol levels and, consequently, less severe penalties. You should reach out to a DWI attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can begin advising you of your legal rights and protecting you while negotiating with the police department and the prosecutor in charge of your case.
Discuss Your Case With a Skilled DWI Attorney
After being pulled over at a sobriety checkpoint, have you been charged with a DWI? Your freedom and future may be in jeopardy. Attorney Joel Hancock will review the facts in your case and develop an effective legal strategy for fighting the charges against you. Working with a skilled attorney can help you defend your rights and obtain the best outcome possible in your case. Reach out to Hancock Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Hancock Law Firm serves residents in need of a sobriety checkpoint DWI lawyer in Beaufort, Morehead City, and throughout all of Carteret County.