If you’ve been driving in Maryland for long enough, chances are you’ve gone through a DUI checkpoint once or twice. DUI checkpoints safeguard the community and send a message that there is zero tolerance for drunk driving. Before a police officer ever stops you, make sure you know:
- The background of DUI checkpoints, why and when they have them;
- The requirements for the officers; And
- Your rights and how you handle your rights being violated.
A DUI Checkpoint: The Basics
Seeing a DUI checkpoint is scary even for sober drivers. In a DUI checkpoint, police officers set up a stop on the highway to randomly check cars for drunk or impaired drivers. They are usually set up in high crash areas and during times when more accidents are known to happen, like holidays.
There are two main reasons cops have these checkpoints: catching impaired drivers and sending a message to everyone that the cops are watching.
Many people argue that these stops are an invasion of your Fourth Amendment rights which protects against unreasonable search and seizures. However, the Supreme Court rules them legal. Because Maryland allows them, you will see them most frequently in Montgomery County, Harford County, and Prince Georges County.
An Officers Requirements for A DUI Checkpoint
Maryland has laws that officers must follow when conducting DUI/sobriety checkpoints. If law enforcement doesn’t follow these laws, their evidence wouldn’t be legal in court. Some of these requirements are:
- The police department has to announce these checkpoints to the public ahead of time. They can do it however they choose: Social media, road signs, or anything else.
- Uniformed officers must operate the checkpoint. Technically, this means that an unmarked car or a cop that isn’t in uniform should not be pulling you over at a checkpoint.
- They have to pick cars randomly. This strategy means that they may stop every third car, but they cannot break from this protocol to stop someone they believe to be impaired. They’ll have to wait until after the checkpoint to pull them over. Randomness removes individual biases from tainting the process.
What to do at a DUI Checkpoint
Police officers will be scanning for traffic violations or equipment violations, such as a broken taillight, and may ask questions such as, “Have you been drinking alcohol tonight?” Again, just because they can’t pull you over as part of a checkpoint stop, they can wait until you leave the zone and pull you over.
When passing through a checkpoint, drive normally by keeping up with traffic flow. Pay attention to where the signs warning you of the checkpoint are located. You want to keep the line moving to avoid being suspicious.
Ensure that you are compliant with the officer’s or officers’ directions. Pay close attention to the sequence and which vehicles and drivers ahead of you get waved through the checkpoint.
Your Rights At A DUI Checkpoint
If you get stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you should know a few things. First, there are only two questions that you are required to answer:
- What’s your name?
- What’s your address?
Questions about your life or where you’re going do not need answering, and you have a right to refuse. Of course, this sounds easy enough, but the police may grow frustrated and try to find a reason to charge you.
Remember that you have the right to remain silent. It is your right for a reason, so exercise it. The Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate yourself will help you avoid any further trouble.