Halloween is here! That means trick-or-treaters will soon be filling up the streets dressed as ghosts and vampires and other scary things. It also means Halloween parties -- and lots of them -- for adults. Alcohol is often a treat at these parties, so it goes without saying: with so many people out and about on and near the streets, make sure you have a safe means to get home.
For adults who will be having a drink or two on Halloween, we are here to remind you that even one drink can make an officer suspect you are operating a vehicle under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. That matters because Virginia State and local police are working together to expand sobriety checkpoints this Halloween. These checkpoints will be similar to what the Commonwealth conducted over Labor Day weekend, which included 120 sobriety checkpoints and many more DUI or DUI-related arrests.
What Happens When Virginia Sobriety Checkpoints Turn Scary?
Say you come across one of these sobriety checkpoints on your way home, and the police officer asks where you are coming from, and you say a Halloween party. That right there is one strike against you. The officer may then ask if you had anything to drink. In pursuit of transparency and cooperation, you may admit to one or two drinks -- nothing in your mind that could suggest illegal intoxication for the purpose of operating a vehicle.
Unfortunately, that bit of honesty does the opposite of what you wanted: instead of getting a pass for truthfulness, the officer firmly believes you are unlawfully intoxicated. That would probably still be true even if you hadn't said you drank a little alcohol simply because you are driving home after a party… and it's Halloween. So now, he asks you to step out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests (FST).
You know you can do it, so you agree to the FST (remember: you do not have to agree to perform field sobriety tests – a refusal will not get your license automatically suspended). Afterward, you believe you passed the FST. The officer, on the other hand (strongly influenced by your answers to his questions) thinks you didn't.
You are then asked to take a preliminary breath test. You again agree because you know you are lawfully capable of driving (and you know a refusal will get your driver's license suspended automatically regardless of what your blood alcohol level is). But you fail the PBT, too. That little bit of alcohol lingering on your breath was enough.
Keep in mind that:
- FSTs are highly subjective tests with no scientific basis; and
- PBTs are famously inaccurate, and as such, not allowed to be admitted as evidence.
Before you know it, you are under arrest for a DUI. Maybe it's your first offense or maybe not, but whatever the case may be, it's still a scary turn of events you weren't planning on this Halloween evening.
Don't Get Spooked on All Hallows Eve
Halloween was meant to be fun. Let's keep it that way. If you drink, drink safely – and make use of Northern Virginia's Sober Ride program and get coupons for Lyft, if necessary. Whatever you do, make sure you have a way home or are otherwise not illegally intoxicated.
If you drive yourself home, you may or may not come across a sobriety checkpoint, but if you do, don't offer any additional information except your name, auto insurance, and car registration. On this evening (and, for that matter, any other evening), the police can seem like monsters to some people, but you still need to be polite as possible if you don't want an arrest scare.
And if that arrest happens on All Hallows Eve, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately.