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What should you do if you encounter a DUI checkpoint?

This time of year as drunk driving accidents increase, police are out in force here in North Carolina and throughout the country in an effort to keep intoxicated drivers off the road. You're likely to see at least one DUI checkpoint over the holidays, particularly around New Year's.

Checkpoints generally are legal. Law enforcement agencies are required to provide advance notification of the date and location of checkpoints. You can find them online. Officers are required to stop motorists using a neutral formula rather than targeting specific vehicles. The length of the stop is supposed to be reasonable. When a checkpoint is operated properly, you generally can't argue in court that your constitutional rights were violated.

Drivers aren't required by law to stop at a DUI checkpoint. If you see one up ahead, you can turn around or otherwise bypass it assuming that you're not right at the checkpoint and not committing a traffic violation (like an illegal U-turn) by doing it. Officers can't arrest you for doing that. However, if you're close to the checkpoint, you'll likely attract unwanted attention and may find yourself being followed to see if you do anything unsafe or suspicious.

Once you are selected to be stopped, you're required to comply with the officers' instructions. If they suspect that you're under the influence, they may ask you to take one or more field sobriety tests. You're not required to submit to these. However, if you don't, you could have your license suspended. Many attorneys advise people to politely refuse them, as it's more difficult to prove a DUI case in the absence of a breath test done at the scene.

As with any traffic stop, it's essential to know what your rights are. It's also important to be courteous to the officers, even if you're refusing a request. How you behave can go a long way to determining whether you're arrested or allowed to go on your way.

Source: FindLaw, "What Happens at a DUI Checkpoint?," Christopher Coble, Esq., accessed Dec. 22, 2016

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