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Can You Turn Around or Refuse Field Testing at A DUI Checkpoint?

Feb. 2, 2018

You may have played out in your mind what would happen if you came across a driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoint one of those nights after you'd consumed a few too many drinks. You may have even wondered what would happen if you came up to one and decided to either turn around or to refuse a breath test.

As for whether you're required by law to actually proceed through a checkpoint if you come up on one, most jurisdiction's laws would support the fact that you don't have to.

If you decide to proceed through one, you're required to comply with a law enforcement officer's search of your vehicle, but they can't detain you just for turning away before reaching it.

What a police officer can stop you for, though, is if you turn away and then engage in other illegal or suspicious behaviors. For example, if you turn away before reaching the checkpoint then quickly throw open alcohol containers out of the window, then he or she may become suspicious of you.

If you make an illegal U-turn, drive erratically or otherwise recklessly, then you may attract their interest as well.

If you do proceed through a checkpoint, then it's important to note that thinking you'll be able to later argue that the search was unconstitutional is not likely to fly in a court of law.

This is one of the reasons police officers working checkpoints generally start by asking for a driver's license or registration first. It gives them an opportunity to see whether you may be impaired cognitively.

They also check to see if there's a smell of alcohol emanating from your car. These may be tell-tale signs that you're intoxicated. An officer may confirm his or her suspicions by asking you to take part in a field sobriety test.

A mobile breathalyzer unit may be set up nearby to test suspected drunk driver's level of intoxication. If an officer asks you to engage in testing, then it's generally not mandatory that you do so. Refusing such tests, however, can carry with it some of the same penalties as if you'd actually been determined to have been driving drunk.

Penalties associated with a DUI conviction in Virginia include you having your license suspended, being sentenced to jail time or payment of fines. If you've accused of drunk driving, then a Christiansburg DUI defense attorney can advise you of your rights.

Source: FindLaw, "What happens at a DUI checkpoint?," Christopher Coble, accessed Feb. 02, 2018