DUI Checkpoints in Miami
A DUI checkpoint is a roadblock set up by law enforcement to catch drunk drivers. Checkpoints are conducted by different municipalities and police departments throughout the year in Miami-Dade County. While mostly used as a deterrent to drunk driving, checkpoints, or roadblocks, are also used to catch motorists who are driving without a license or whose driver’s license has been suspended.
Police departments typically use warning lights, signs and law enforcement vehicles to delineate the roadblock which typically blocks an entire road. The roads typically used for DUI checkpoints are those where police feel they have the best chances of intercepting drunk drivers. They also set them up on nights when they feel there will be an increased number of impaired drivers on the road (i.e. nights, early in the morning, weekends and holidays).
In South Florida, law enforcement agencies typically rotate each month or every couple of months conducting their own respective roadblocks.
What to expect at a DUI Roadblock/Sobriety Checkpoint
As you approach the checkpoint you will see the area has been marked with cones, lights and signs. It is not uncommon to also see law enforcement vehicles with their lights on. Once you are instructed to reduce your speed, you will be placed into lines for processing.
Typically, every vehicle or every nth vehicle will be stopped at the checkpoint. Once stopped an officer will ask for your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. It is during this brief interaction with the driver that the police officer determines whether signs of impairment are present and provides the probable cause necessary to conduct an investigation for DUI. The police officer conducting the stop is looking for signs of impairment such as watery, bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol coming from a person’s breath or facial area, slurred speech or any other indicators of impairment (i.e. handing the police officer a credit card or bank receipt rather than a driver’s license and insurance documents).
Once the officer observes signs of impairment you will move to another area of the checkpoint and the officer will ask you to perform standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) and the officer may conduct Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) to attempt to prove impairment.
Should you fail the SFSTs, you will be placed under arrest for DUI and asked to submit to a physical or chemical test, typically a breath test, to determine the alcohol content of your breath or blood. During checkpoints the breath test may be conducted in a mobile breath alcohol testing vehicle or back at the police station following a 20-minute observation period. If you register a result of .08 or above, you are considered to be legally impaired.
From this point, you will be hauled off to jail and your car will be towed and impounded from the scene.
This can’t be legal! – Are DUI Sobriety Checkpoints/Roadblocks legal?
While it may seem that random stops conducted as part of DUI Roadblocks or Checkpoints are violations of the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution since you are being stopped without probable cause or a warrant, they are legal in the U.S. and specifically in Florida.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that while roadblocks infringe on constitutional rights, the state’s interest in reducing drunk driving outweighs the infringement and sobriety checkpoints are necessary.
Can I fight a DUI Arrest from a roadblock or DUI sobriety checkpoint?
The short answer is, absolutely. Even though it has been established that DUI checkpoints are in fact constitutional, there is still heightened scrutiny placed upon them because they are infringing on 4th Amendment rights. In Florida, DUI checkpoints must follow specific guidelines in order to standardize practices and methods that limit discretion by the officer to limit infringement on the 4th Amendment.
While the Supreme Court did not prescribe standards or guidelines depicting how roadblocks should be conducted, individual states should have guidelines that must be strictly followed. Many states follow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines.
Arrested for DUI at a checkpoint, now what?
You cannot afford to waste time! The moment you are arrested for DUI because you either refused to submit to a breathalyzer or were driving with an unlawful blood/breath alcohol level of .08 or above, your license is immediately suspended. You ONLY have 10 DAYS from the date of arrest to save your license!