If you have ever driven through a DUI checkpoint in North Carolina, you know how scary they can be. Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, when you see those blue lights flashing, you suddenly feel nervous. You wonder if you forgot to renew your registration or driver’s license. You worry that maybe you won’t be able to find your insurance card. And, if you’ve been drinking, you’re scared to death the cops are going to arrest you for DUI. A lot of people call office and ask to meet with one of our criminal defense attorneys in Asheville. They complain that they were pulled aside at a DUI checkpoint and were promptly arrested and taken to jail. Many of these clients tell us that as far as they knew, DUI checkpoints were illegal in North Carolina.
The truth is that not only are they legal, but the North Carolina legislature feels that they’re necessary. Just because they’re necessary and legal, however, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any rights. Here, we’ll discuss the nature of DUI checkpoints in North Carolina. We will also explain what your rights are if you happen to get stopped at one of these checkpoints. If you recently have been arrested for DUI and are afraid of being convicted, it’s a good idea to call one of our criminal defense attorneys in Asheville
DUI Checkpoints Are Perfectly Legal in North Carolina
As stated above, DUI checkpoints are legal in North Carolina. In fact, they’re legal in every state. There are national guidelines every state has to follow when they’re setting up a DUI checkpoint. And many states have their own guidelines that law enforcement must follow as well. North Carolina is one of these states.
As long as a DUI checkpoint meets the state requirements, law enforcement is allowed to proceed. Their primary purpose must be to keep drunk drivers off the road. The problem is that if you happen to get stopped at one of these DUI checkpoints, you worry that you could be arrested for any crime – DUI or otherwise. The truth is that police officers are not supposed to be looking for evidence of any crime other than drunk driving. We know that this isn’t the case, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
There Are Certain Criteria the Checkpoint Must Meet
In order to be considered lawful in North Carolina, DUI checkpoints must meet certain criteria. Some of these criteria include the following:
- law enforcement must notify the public that they’re going to be holding a DUI checkpoint on a certain date and at a certain location
- any member of law enforcement is allowed to participate in the checkpoint
- the municipality that is holding the DUI checkpoint must have detailed rules and guidelines that their officers must follow
- these guidelines must include the manner in which police will stop vehicles
- the police must stop either every car, or follow a certain pattern (such as every third car or every 4th car)
- the guidelines must also state what kind of evidence the police are looking to collect
- the officers manning the checkpoint must use uniform and standard treatment for all vehicles they stop
The main reason that law enforcement is required to follow these criteria is to prevent unreasonable searches and seizures which you are protected from under the 4th amendment. It is also meant to prevent police officers from engaging in racial or stereotypical profiling.
You Still Have Rights Even if Your Car is Stopped at a Checkpoint
Even if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint in North Carolina, you still have rights. One of these rights is the right to remain silent. Aside from providing the officers with a copy of your license, registration, and insurance, you do not technically or legally need to answer any of their questions. Of course, if you refuse to answer their questions, do not expect them to give you the benefit of the doubt.
Another right you have at the DUI checkpoint is to refuse to engage in a field sobriety test. If you decide to refuse the field sobriety test, the police can’t use this fact against you in court. Just keep in mind, if you refuse to perform this test, the police can still arrest you for DUI. They will base probable cause on your behavior and other factors surrounding the traffic stop.
Finally, one other important right that you have is refusing the breathalyzer test. Just keep in mind, refusing the breathalyzer test is different from refusing the field sobriety test. As a driver in the state of North Carolina, you have given your implied consent to agree to a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test. If you refuse to submit to this test, your license will automatically be suspended for the period of one year, and the officer conducting the DUI checkpoint will confiscate your physical license.
The Police Still Need Probably Cause to Arrest You for DUI
You should also remember that just because it’s legal to conduct a DUI checkpoint in North Carolina, the police still need probable cause if they’re going to arrest you for DUI. This is no different from any other traffic stop. If, in their professional opinion, the officers suspect that you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can and will arrest you for DUI.
Some of the things the officers will look out for to establish probable cause include the following:
- bloodshot eyes
- slurred speech
- the odor of alcohol or marijuana
- red or flushed skin
- a driver who appears unusually sleepy or tired
- open containers in plain sight
- a driver who is incoherent or seems confused
if the police notice any of these things, they have every right to arrest you for DUI.
Contact One of the Best DUI Defense Lawyers in Asheville Right Away
If you’ve already been arrested for DUI at a checkpoint, you still have the right to a proper defense. We recommend that you contact one of the best DUI defense lawyers in Ashville as soon as possible. We’ll work hard to convince the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the charges filed against you. We will also try to poke holes in the State’s case if need be. With so much at stake, it’s in your best interest to have a criminal defense attorney in Ashville by your side throughout the legal process.