Any experienced DUI defense lawyer can tell you it’s common for drivers to turn around when they spot a DUI checkpoint in the distance. It’s often a kneejerk reaction to avoid a DUI checkpoint even when sober, any kind of line in traffic is a hassle. Is this legal? Does this mean you’re more likely to get pulled over and charged with a DUI if a police officer sees you turn around before a checkpoint? Yes, it is suspicious when you make a sudden turn prior to a checkpoint, but it doesn’t mean you will be necessarily be arrested and charged with a DUI. Here’s what you should know about DUI checkpoints, turns, and your duty on the road.
Checkpoint Laws in Florida
Generally, the law does not allow for a police officer to pull anyone over without reasonable suspicion a person engaged in a crime or is engaging in one. This reasonable suspicion of a crime allows the police to pull over a driver and investigate.
For example, a police officer cannot pull you over merely because they watched you pull out of a bar parking lot after being parked there for hours. They can follow you all the way home, but they cannot pull you over unless an illegal act occurs, including:
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Running a red light
- Running a stop sign
- Failing to stop fully at a stop sign
- Making an illegal turn at a red light
- Passing on a double yellow line
These are all grounds for a police officer to stop you and investigate that traffic offense. Once the officer has you stopped, they may ask you to submit to a sobriety test if there is independent suspicion of intoxication. However, the law is different when there are checkpoints in place.
An officer does not need probable cause to stop you at a DUI checkpoint. All DUI checkpoints must meet certain requirements specific to the state where the checkpoint is conducted. According to the law, a checkpoint must have a warning sign placed prior to the checkpoint to make drivers aware, must be conducted in a neutral matter and there must be public notice the checkpoint is going to be setup.
Is it Illegal to Turn Around Before a DUI Checkpoint?
It is not illegal to turn around prior to a checkpoint. The police will still be watching people approaching the checkpoint though. If you turn where a “No U-Turn” sign is posted, drive through a median, turn without a blinker, or turn the wrong way into a turning lane, an officer can pull you over despite the fact you did not enter the checkpoint. They may be forced to only pull you over for the infraction they saw, but they’re going to try and smell your breath, watch your eyes and observe other things that would indicate intoxication.
If the driver made an illegal U-turn to get away from the checkpoint, the police officer can pull the driver over for breaking a law. If no laws are broken, no stops can occur. Avoiding a DUI checkpoint is not reasonable suspicion to pull over a vehicle.
For example, perhaps you turned prior to a checkpoint down a side street and went around the checkpoint. It could be argued that you are not avoiding a stop because of Driving Under the Influence, driving on a suspended license, or even driving with illegal items in your car. Perhaps you always take that side street detour home because it’s faster than the route where the checkpoint was located. Perhaps you try to avoid major intersections at all costs. It’s also possible, and perfectly legal that you are simply trying to avoid the checkpoint within your rights. You have grounds to argue your turn even when it appears suspicious.
Jacksonville, FL DUI Defense Lawyer
If you’re pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, remain quiet and do not fight or argue with the officer. Enact your legal right to a Jacksonville DUI attorney if you are arrested at a Jacksonville DUI checkpoint and call Lockett Law, P.A at (904) 667-0626.
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Article updated on March 16th, 2022