When you are out driving around Southern Maryland during the holiday season, you may notice more police out on the roads as well.
While most of us think of this as the most wonderful time of the year, law enforcement tends to view it as one of the deadliest times of the year and will have an increased presence on the roadways.
You may even come across a DUI checkpoint. It can be a scary thing to go through even if you haven’t had a drink!
Holiday DUI Checkpoints
DUI checkpoints serve two main purposes. The primary purpose of a DUI checkpoint is to arrest drivers who are under the influence, obviously. But the secondary purpose is to send a message to all drivers that law enforcement is actively on the lookout for drunk drivers.
From a law enforcement perspective, they hope the fear of running into a checkpoint will prevent drinking and driving. Because holidays have a statistically high probability for alcohol related arrests, DUI checkpoints have maximum effectiveness during this time.
Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint
Everyone knows that the 4th Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures, and that officers must have probable cause to search or arrest. So how can a police officer stop a vehicle, without any probable cause, during a DUI checkpoint?
Maryland is one of many states to determine that the public policy benefits of DUI checkpoints in reducing the number of drunk drivers outweighs any potential 4th Amendment concerns. That is why, for the limited purpose of a DUI checkpoint, officers do not need probable cause to stop your vehicle.
This does not mean that you are without legal rights in this situation. For example, all DUI checkpoints must follow strict requirements for proper process. They cannot be based on arbitrary protocols. In addition, the police must give public notice in advance of using the DUI checkpoint and signs must be posted to notify drivers. Finally, officers cannot arrest a driver for turning around to avoid the checkpoint without other evidence of drunk driving.
What to do at a DUI Checkpoint
Even if you have not been drinking, approaching a DUI checkpoint can be an intimidating experience. Here are some tips for navigating this situation:
- Pay careful attention to the signs and directions given by police officers, particularly to make sure you keep the line moving. Remember, officers are looking for evidence of drunk driving. Holding up traffic will cause red flags.
- Look at the sequence of cars in front of you to see if you can determine which vehicles and drivers are getting waived through the checkpoint. Remember, the system cannot be arbitrary and must follow a pre-determined pattern.
- If you are far enough back in the line to do so, take a detour! It is best to avoid this situation entirely. But know that officers will be watching you – ONLY do this if you can turn around or take an early turn without breaking any traffic laws or causing suspicion.
- If you are stopped at the DUI checkpoint, remain silent and do not allow a search of your vehicle. You are only required to answer questions related to your identity, and do not have to tell the officer where you have been, where you are going, or what you’ve had to drink. Anything you say will be used as evidence against you.
- If you are arrested, call an attorney immediately! An experienced DUI attorney can investigate whether the checkpoint followed all of the strict requirements of Maryland law and fight to suppress any evidence against you. Also, be sure to see our Free Legal Consumer Guide that explains everything you need to know about DUI and DWI.
Hopefully you will never need this information. Unlike the old slogan “know when to say when” the new reality is that you cannot drink and drive at all. However, you don’t need to have had anything to drink to feel a little nervous if you are pulling up to a DUI checkpoint.
Even if you’ve had nothing to drink, knowing your rights can help you navigate this situation confidently. And if you have enjoyed some holiday egg nog, knowing your rights can be critical to protecting you from a very costly DUI conviction.
With that in mind, we developed the Free Legal Consumer Guide What You Need To Know About DWI and DUI In Maryland. This information is 100% free for you to use or reference at any time. It will explain all you need to know if you or a friend is arrested for a DUI or DWI.
From all of us at Andrews, Bongar, Gormley & Clagett, we hope you enjoy a safe and responsible holiday season!