Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Virginia?
In most situations, law enforcement officers in Virginia need probable cause to stop your vehicle for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Virginia law allows law enforcement agencies to use DUI checkpoints to catch intoxicated drivers, but law enforcement agencies using this procedure to reduce the number of intoxicated drivers on the road must follow specific protocols to be legal.
If you were arrested for DUI in Virginia or Washington, D.C., contact the defense attorneys at S.L. England, PLLC.
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE V. SITZ
The Supreme Court of the United States considered if DUI checkpoints were legal in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz. In 1986, the Michigan Department of State Police instituted a DUI checkpoint program to reduce the number of intoxicated drivers on the road. Before the Michigan Department of State Police instituted their first checkpoint, Rick Sitz filed a lawsuit, alleging that the checkpoints violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that DUI checkpoints do not violate drivers’ Fourth Amendment rights since the intrusion on their privacy is minor and the benefit of reducing the number of intoxicated drivers on the road outweighs this small intrusion of privacy.
In Virginia, DUI checkpoints are also called sobriety checkpoints, mobile checkpoints, and roadblocks, and all four terms refer to the same process.
The law enforcement agency running the checkpoint must advertise its location prior to setting one up. This information may be on the law enforcement agency’s website or announced by local media outlets such as radio stations, television newscasts, or in the newspaper.
Checkpoints cannot be on roads with high-speed limits since this puts drivers, pedestrians, and law enforcement officers in unnecessary danger Checkpoints can only cause minimal interference to the flow of traffic.
Law enforcement officers may not stop every vehicle that passes through the checkpoint. Instead, they use a mathematical formula and stop every nth vehicle, for example, every sixth vehicle, according to their department protocol. You may be required to show your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance, but you cannot be asked to exit your vehicle unless the officer has probable cause to believe you are driving impaired. Signs of impairment may include the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, jerky movements, or general confusion.
You are not required to submit to any field sobriety tests if the law enforcement officer at the checkpoint believes you are intoxicated. However, by getting behind the wheel, you have given your implied consent to a chemical breath or blood test if you are arrested to DUI. These are performed at the police station or a hospital.
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED VIRGINIA DUI ATTORNEY
If you are arrested for DUI at a Virginia sobriety checkpoint, contact the experienced DUI defense attorneys at S.L. England, PLLC. You could be facing fines and jail time, jeopardizing your future. Our attorneys can aggressively represent you in any level court and will build the strongest defense for you. Call us today at (202) 572-1020 or contact us online.