DUI Checkpoints 101: Purpose and Process in Las Vegas
What is a DUI Checkpoint?
Due to the nature and spirit of Las Vegas, DUI checkpoints, also referred to as sobriety or drunk driving sobriety checkpoints, are common occurrences. These cordoned-off areas are found on public roads, generally late at night, in the early morning hours, or on weekends or holidays. To put it succinctly, checkpoints are constructed during times and on days when law enforcement is most likely to catch someone driving under the influence.
What Should I Expect?
Law enforcement officials, usually uniformed police officers, will create a roadblock using safety cones, lit cruisers, and rope so as to halt each passing vehicle. The driver of the car is questioned in order to ascertain if they are drunk or under the influence of any other substances.
Per Shouse Law, a Las Vegas Defense Group, “officers will probably ask you some questions and shine a flashlight into your car to see if you are transporting open alcohol containers. If they believe you are exhibiting intoxicated behavior, you will be directed to a nearby area to take a preliminary breath test (PBT) and perform DUI field sobriety tests (FSTs), such as the Nevada horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Depending on the results, you may be arrested for driving under the influence or be allowed to leave.”
If you arrive at a DUI checkpoint, whether in Las Vegas or any other area, make sure to have your drivers license, registration, and proof of insurance ready. Keep in mind that officers are trained to detect signs of inebriation such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and flushed cheeks, loss of coordination, and the smell of alcohol.
How Do I Know if it’s Legal?
Shouse Law provides 4 clear-cut indicators for the Las Vegas area that help determine if a DUI checkpoint has been set-up legally. Keep in mind that DUI checkpoints are only legal if they follow the below guidelines:
– It’s on a highway visible to approaching traffic at a distance of 100 yards in either direction.
– Signage displaying “stop” has been placed near the centerline of the highway. The words must be big and bright enough to read at a distance of 50 yards in both directions.
– There must be “at least one flashing red light at the side of the highway, also clearly visible to oncoming traffic at a distance of no less than 100 yards.”
– “Warning signs must be placed at the side of the highway no less than a quarter mile from the roadblock so oncoming traffic are notified that a police stop lies ahead. The signage has to be big and bright enough so drivers can see it, and a burning beam light, flare or lantern must be placed near the signs to attract attention (NRS 484B.570)”
If police have followed the above rules, they legally have the right to stop your vehicle and assess you for a possible DUI.
With that said, it is not recommended to drive through a checkpoint that you deem illegal. Officers may believe they have followed the appropriate legal guidelines and will therefore take necessary and, oftentimes, serious actions to detain and arrest you.
If you believe you have been detained at an illegal DUI checkpoint, make sure to notify your legal representation. This is generally grounds for dismissal of the charges.
What Are My Rights?
While there have been numerous cases involving the intrusion of these DUI checkpoints on an individuals personal rights, there are concrete things to know in order to fully enact these personal rights:
– You have the right to remain silent until you contact an attorney.
– You have the right to wait to be questioned with an attorney present.
– You have the right to exercise your Miranda rights.
– If you are arrested, you do not have to consent to automatic impoundment of your vehicle. You have the ability and right to make other arrangements for your vehicle to be collected.
– You have the right to leave if you are not under arrest.
Per the National Motorists Association, “… drivers need not even present their license during the initial contact with the officer in a roadblock situation. Drivers may also refuse to perform field sobriety tests. This does not prevent the officer from arresting the driver. However, the arresting officer will have substantially fewer factors to support the arrest when it is challenged later in court.”
While everyone legally has to stop for roadblocks, unless you are found to be under the influence, you don’t have to answer any questions. The NMA continues to explain that, “if the motorist does not wish to comply, the police, in absence of an articulable reason to believe a crime has been or is being committed, must allow the driver to proceed … The “right not to respond” permits motorists to refrain from engaging in alphabet recitations or other “command performances” of verbal and physical exercises.
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