You plan an evening out with friends. Your group hits a few bars before heading home. And on the way home, you find yourself driving up to a DUI checkpoint.
Your stomach slams into your throat. Your passengers start to voice their concerns. And you decide to play it cool.
You probably know how DUI checkpoints work, but what you probably don’t know is that according to Ohio law, these checkpoints are legal, if the authorities involved follow a few guidelines.
Go ahead and read our blog on How to Avoid a DUI altogether, too.
Ohio DUI Checkpoint Basics
The supreme court ruled sobriety test checkpoints as a legal way to deter drunk driving. While many people may dislike or even disagree with these checkpoints, they are by law legal. Here are the guidelines that the checkpoints in Ohio must follow:
- The checkpoint site must have a lengthy history of alcohol-related incidents or accidents.
Logistical issues of the checkpoint must be mapped out and organized.
- At least one week prior to the checkpoint being set up, the authorities must notify the local residents of its existence. The notice must include the location, time, and date of the checkpoint.
- A few hours prior to the checkpoint starting operation, the administrator must issue an advisory alert of the location and presence of the checkpoint with the exact location and duration.
What DUI Checkpoints Look Like
When you drive up to a DUI checkpoint, you will notice a few defining features. The checkpoint will guide traffic through a pattern organized with road cones, flares, and other tools. The location will be lit up by portable lights. Large reflective signs will be placed alongside the road and marked police cars will be positioned next to these signs.
At these reflective signs, drivers have the option to turn around and decide not to go through the checkpoint.
What Is the DUI Checkpoint Process?
Know that not all vehicles are stopped at DUI checkpoints. To meet the Supreme Court’s guidelines for DUI checkpoints, the selection of vehicles stopped must be uniformly random. Also, depending on the amount of traffic, this random selection may vary.
If you are indeed stopped, the officer will look for signs of alcohol impairment. This includes erratic behavior, slurred speech, and/or the smell of alcohol.
The office will ask you questions, and the only ones you’re required to answer include information about your identification, insurance, and vehicle registration. While a police officer may ask you other questions, you are not obliged to answer them.
In the event that you are deemed showing signs of alcohol impairment, you will be shown the way to a separate screening area for more testing.
What Is an Ohio Field Sobriety Test Like?
Once in the screening area, officials will administer a field sobriety test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed the test. The tests will include:
- Alcohol Gaze Nystagmus Exam
- One-Legged Stand
- Walk and Turn
In the event that the officer deems you failed any of these tests, the officer will have probable cause to arrest you. Probable cause means that the officer has valid suspicion that you have, in fact, broken the law.
Can You Refuse a DUI Checkpoint Field Sobriety Test?
If you’re stopped at a DUI checkpoint, or for any other normal traffic stop, you are not required to answer any questions outside ones regarding your identification, insurance, and/or vehicle registration. At DUI checkpoints, officers may ask things like, “Where you coming from?” or “Any fun plans tonight?” You do not have to answer these questions. The authorities are asking these questions to discover reasonable suspicion of you drinking and driving (or breaking any other number of laws.
In the event that you’re are directed to a secondary area to “answer” further questions and be requested to go through a field sobriety test, you are not required to participate. Officers may or may not inform you of the consequences for refusing these tests, but the primary consequence is a license suspension for up to one year.
Facing potential DUI charges? Call Probst Law Offices today!