This summer law enforcement agencies in Colorado cracked down on drunk driving, especially during the holidays. According to Channel 7 News, more than 1,300 people across the state of Colorado were arrested for driving under the influence during a 19-day period that included Labor Day weekend, with most arrests occurring in the Denver and Aurora areas. Police say they could set up a checkpoint anywhere.
The idea is to scare drivers into thinking they could run into a checkpoint at any time. With this issue being so highly publicized this summer, many clients, friends, and family have been asking some of the following questions:
1.) What is a DUI checkpoint?
DUI checkpoints, sometimes called DUI roadblock is a law enforcement tool frequently used to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents where alcohol is a contributing factor and aids in the detection, apprehension and/or deterrence of drivers who are intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol.
At a checkpoint, drivers are forced to stop and briefly speak with a police officer on the scene. The officer will then normally ask for the driver’s license only. If during this brief encounter the trooper perceives no evidence of alcohol impairment, the motorist is allowed to proceed immediately, being assisted back into traffic by an officer.
2.) What are officers looking for during these stops?
During the stop, the officer will on alert for any articulable conditions normally associated with persons driving under the influence. These conditions would include, but not be limited to, odor of alcohol consumption about the driver, slurred speech, flushed appearance, disorderly or unusual conduct, visual disorders and/or lack of muscular coordination.
In the event any condition or combination of conditions exist which give the trooper probable cause to believe the driver may be under the influence of alcohol, the driver may then be requested to perform certain psychomotor coordination tests and/or submit to a chemical test of either his blood or breath.
3.) Are DUI checkpoints legal?
The Supreme Court of the United States has held that DUI checkpoints do not violate a driver’s rights under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The Supreme Court also said, however, that procedural guidelines must be followed by the police in order to make the roadblock constitutional.
For example, the police cannot just randomly pick a car here and there to stop. The police must treat all vehicles the same. They can do this by stopping every car, stopping every other car, or every third car, and so on. This procedure should be established by the police before the roadblock begins and should be included in the administrative order authorizing the use of the DUI checkpoint.
In Colorado, the Department of Transportation (CDOT) has established guidelines for law enforcement agencies to follow. Those guidelines can be found here.
If you would like to speak to an attorney about your situation, please contact Timlin & Rye by calling 303-837-9284 or email us.
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