Every year, the total number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities slightly increases. As a matter of fact, 2020 was one of the deadliest years for alcohol-impaired driving fatalities with a staggering 9% increase over 2019 despite fewer drivers on the road during the pandemic. Over 38 states conduct DUI checkpoints; Florida is one of them. A DUI checkpoint, also known as a sobriety checkpoint, is a law enforcement technique where law enforcement officials systematically evaluate drivers for any signs of impairment while behind the wheel. Usually, this is done in a sequence such as stopping every fourth vehicle passing in a single line to avoid accusations of profiling.
To answer the question of whether DUI checkpoints are legal in Florida, the answer is simply yes. They are. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, there are roughly 15 to 20 checkpoints set up each month throughout the state of Florida. Some of these checkpoints are known as permanently located manned checkpoints, while others are set up in random locations where they cannot be observed by approaching traffic until it is far too late to withdraw. While Florida considers DUI checkpoints as a method to combat drunk driving, it is often argued that these checkpoints are an infringement upon our constitutional rights. If you have been charged with DUI following a sobriety checkpoint, contacting a Florida DUI lawyer can ensure your rights and freedoms are protected.
Florida DUI Checkpoint Laws
Florida law enforcement agencies must follow certain rules and procedures when operating DUI checkpoints. Some of these rules include:
- Florida must adhere to the "three-minute rule." This means officers cannot detain motorists at a DUI checkpoint for longer than three minutes, or the length of a typical redlight. If a stop is longer than three minutes, officers must temporarily suspend the diversion of vehicles until stops fall under the three-minute mark once again. If officers are holding up traffic as a result of the checkpoint, the checkpoint may be considered unreasonable.
- Florida law enforcement agencies must publically post the date and location of any scheduled DUI checkpoints. DUIBlock.com is a handy tool that provides a constantly updated schedule of upcoming DUI checkpoints in Florida. All DUI checkpoints in Florida must be scheduled to allow motorists to know which area(s) to avoid if they do not want to deal with the inconvenience.
- The formula or procedure to determine which drivers should be pulled over must be predetermined prior to establishing the checkpoint. Florida law enforcement cannot just simply pull over vehicles they choose or vehicles that may not look right at a checkpoint location.
What are My Rights at a Florida DUI Checkpoint?
You are allowed to avoid a DUI checkpoint in Florida, but only by making legal traffic maneuvers. You cannot make an illegal U-turn to avoid a checkpoint as doing so can lead to being pulled over.
You must stop at a DUI checkpoint if directed to do so by an officer. If your vehicle is selected, you'll be asked to pull to the side and provide your license, proof of insurance, and registration like any other normal traffic stop. Once stopped, the officer(s) will observe your behavior and listen to how you answer their questions. While it is best practice to be respectful at a DUI checkpoint despite how annoying it may be, you are not obligated to respond to questioning at these checkpoints. You may have seen videos where drivers refuse to roll down their window or hold up a notecard stating they are invoking their constitutional rights; this is perfectly legal but not recommended. If an officer asks questions like: "Where are you coming from?," "Where are you headed to?," or "How much have you had to drink?," politely state that you do not wish to answer any questions without an attorney present.
If they suspect any signs of impairment, however, they can ask you to submit to a sobriety test. If arrested, it is imperative to request to speak with a Florida DUI attorney if you haven't already done so before submitting to any additional tests.
DUI checkpoints in Florida can be uncomfortable and intimidating, so it's important to remember your rights. If you have done nothing wrong, remember, there is nothing to worry about. If you or a loved one were arrested at a DUI checkpoint in Florida, you should contact an experienced Palm Beach DUI defense attorney immediately. Contact us or call us at (561) 671-5995 to have your case reviewed promptly.
If you're not ready to call us, we offer a free guide 'What You Must Know About Your DUI Case Before You Do Anything' which attacks DUI myths that could potentially hurt your case.