Police Checkpoints: What You Need To Know

Drunk driving is a serious problem in our country that must be taken seriously. It's estimated that approximately 30 people die each day in alcohol-influenced traffic accidents in the United States alone. With statistics like that, it's no surprise that police take every measure necessary to intervene--including the use of checkpoints.

However, the use of these checkpoints is under serious question lately. They don't appear to be very successful--the cost of checkpoint efforts near Chicago seem to be ineffective for the cost involved. Worse still, they can infringe upon the average motorist's rights if they enter into the checkpoint unprepared.

That's why it's important for citizens to understand exactly how to assert their legal rights in an effective manner. If you come across a checkpoint, you'll need to keep a few things in mind to achieve that outcome.

Point #1--Don't Try To Evade The Checkpoint

As a citizen, you have every right to drive where you need to go. If that includes turning off of the road that leads up to a checkpoint, so be it. There's absolutely no reason to alter your normal driving habits or route as a result of a checkpoint.

That said, if you pull into the line at a checkpoint before performing a u-turn and heading the other way, you'll likely be pulled over. Checkpoints are often heavily monitored and trying to evade one is often all the officers need to establish probable cause. Your best bet when navigating a checkpoint is to head right into it, regardless of whether or not the idea makes you nervous.

Point #2--Access Your License and Registration The Right Way

Even though a DUI checkpoint is different than a typical traffic stop, common training still applies for the officer. They are trained to approach a vehicle in a certain way, and sudden moves make them nervous. This can be avoided by retrieving your license and registration effectively. 

First, don't use both hands when one will suffice. For example, when retrieving your insurance card from your glove compartment or console, keep your other hand on the dashboard or steering wheel. If the police officer can see one or both of your hands at all times, you're in good shape.

Second, try to avoid storing your wallet in your pants or coat pocket. Reaching into your pocket is difficult to do while buckled into your seat. Get into the habit of removing your wallet and placing it in the glove compartment when you drive, if possible.

Finally, rest with your hands on the steering wheel--even when speaking with the officer. You're probably going to be nervous, and nervous people tend to fidget. If you keep your hands on the wheel, the police officer will be at ease and you won't look as nervous--or guilty--as you will if your hands are shaking like mad.

Point #3--Don't Self-Incriminate

If you've kept the first two points in mind, you're in good shape. The officer is in control of the situation and you've done nothing to provoke them or to establish probable cause. Now, your task is to keep your cool and assert yourself properly.

The officer will likely lead with a friendly comment. Always remember that your answer can incriminate you--admitting you were at a football game could indicate a higher likelihood of drinking while in attendance. Don't be fooled. The officer is almost certainly fishing for information.

This makes courteous, non-incriminating responses your best bet. Remember, you're not on trial. A good tip for handling this is to answer their question with one of your own. Ask the officer if they have all the documentation that they need, or if you've done everything properly. Ideally, you're trying to give them no information at all without resorting to rudeness.

If you've kept these things in mind and you still feel as if your rights have been violated, be sure to contact a licensed attorney immediately. DUI checkpoints often blur the lines between ensuring public safety and infringing on citizen's rights. Even the most prepared individuals sometimes require professional support and advocacy. For more information, check out the site.