What rights do drivers have at sobriety checkpoints in Florida?

Knowing their rights when stopped at sobriety checkpoints may help Florida drivers avoid unnecessary DUI arrests, and the potential penalties.

Each year, numerous people are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. In 2015 alone, there were 31,783 driving under the influence arrests across Florida, according to the state’s Department of Law Enforcement. Sometimes, DUI arrests are incidental to people being stopped at sobriety, or DUI, checkpoints. In order to help protect themselves from unnecessary arrests, it is important for drivers to be aware of their rights at such stops.

Answering questions

Upon being stopped at DUI checkpoints, it is common for people to be approached and questioned by law enforcement officers. In such situations, most people respond because they feel obligated to do so. However, motorists do not have to speak with the authorities at sobriety checkpoints. Instead, they may present law enforcement officers with a card stating they want to exercise their constitutional rights. Drivers may also keep their windows rolled up.

Submitting to roadside tests

If law enforcement officers suspect people of drunk driving, they may ask them to step outside of their vehicles and perform field sobriety tests. Drivers are not required to comply with such requests, however, the authorities may fail to inform them that they are allowed to refuse when they ask.

While people do not have to submit to these tests, it is important for them to keep in mind that doing so may be in their best interests if they have not consumed any alcoholic beverages. Performing such tests may show law enforcement officers that their suspicions are unfounded and prove the drivers should be allowed to leave.

Undergoing chemical testing

Based on how people respond to questioning, their performance on roadside tests and other observations, law enforcement officers may arrest drivers at DUI checkpoints. At that time, they may ask them to submit to chemical testing, including a breath or blood test. Under the state’s implied consent law, motorists cannot refuse these tests without facing additional consequences.

After refusing a breath test, drivers are subject to an automatic suspension of their driving privileges. They may lose their right to drive for one year for a first time refusal and 18 months for subsequent refusals, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. This penalty is typically levied in addition to any that may result due to a DUI conviction.

Obtaining legal representation

When people in Florida are convicted of drunk driving, they may face a range of penalties with potentially life-changing implications. Thus, it may benefit those who have been charged with DUI to seek legal counsel. A lawyer may help them build a strong criminal defense, which may include questioning whether their rights were violated at a sobriety checkpoint.