Anyone who has stayed out late on the weekend knows that DWI checkpoints are not uncommon in downtown Columbia and the surrounding areas. The local police often receive grants and other funding to pay for officers' overtime in setting up and conducting checkpoints. At a recent checkpoint between 12:05 and 2:50 a.m. on March 16, 2014, at Locust and Fourth Streets, the Columbia Police Department stopped 101 vehicles and arrested 9 people on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, 2 for driving while suspended and 1 for resisting arrest. Meanwhile, in the 6700 block of Route VV North, the Boone County Sheriff's Department checked 400 vehicles and arrested 1 for marijuana possession and issued 8 traffic citations.
In the United States, police do not have the right to pull over or stop a car without a valid reason. DWI Checkpoints are considered constitutional because checkpoints fall into a public safety exception that has been recognized by the Supreme Court. For sobriety checkpoints to be constitutional, proper procedures must be followed, to include: administrative officers determined the location of the checkpoint (in areas that have a proven history of drunk driving); the time and location of the checkpoint was adequately publicized to the public; the location was marked with advance warning signs; uniformed officers were present to demonstrate the official nature of the checkpoint; the selection of the motor vehicles was not arbitrary; and the checkpoint was conducted so as to ensure the safety of motorists.
Sobriety checkpoints are becoming a more common occurrence as states are eager to crack down on drunk drivers. In Missouri, sobriety checkpoints have been deemed legal and police are allowed to stop drivers in a random pattern for a brief time in order to determine whether the driver shows signs of impairment. To be lawful, checkpoints must meet established requirements concerning location, procedures, notice and minimal delay to drivers (State v. Canton, 775 SW2d 352). Certain criteria must be adhered to such as having a prepared plan for the checkpoint so there is no discretion for individual police officers to determine which vehicles are stopped and which are not. The stops must be completely random and cannot take into account a driver’s age, race, or gender, nor can the type or condition of a vehicle be considered. A review of checkpoint arrests includes examination of the written protocols for the checkpoint and confirmation that the protocols were sufficiently identified and strictly followed.
Understandably, many people are unsure of their rights after being stopped at a checkpoint. And as a practical matter, people are unsure of the consequences that may result by flexing their constitutional rights at a checkpoint. First and foremost, being polite and respectful to law enforcement is the best means of receiving the same treatment in return. In this regard:
You have the right to refuse searches of your vehicle and person unless there exists probable cause for a search or a warrant is presented authorizing the search. If an officer asks to search your vehicle or person, politely refuse if you do not wish to be searched. Never attempt to flee or physically try to stop the officer from searching your vehicle or your person.
You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests, even if the officer suspects you are under the influence. If you are asked to perform field sobriety tests, such as reciting the alphabet backwards, or standing on one leg, you may politely refuse. It is important to note that people are pulled over at checkpoints without evidence of erratic driving. Field sobriety tests are routinely video-taped at checkpoints and performing poorly can hurt you in court.
You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions other than stating your name. If requested, you must also produce your license and proof of insurance. If you choose not to answer any questions, politely and respectfully notify the officer
You have the right (although not typically possible) to turn around and try to avoid the sobriety checkpoint, so long as you do so by means of legal traffic maneuvers. However, in accordance with the established checkpoint protocol, you may be pulled over for avoiding the checkpoint.
You have the right to consult an attorney before answering any questions.
You have the right to ask if you are being detained. It is not inappropriate to inform the officer that you want to leave if you are not under arrest. If you are not being detained, the officers are legally required to let you go.
Remember, refusing to cooperate with law enforcement, even when they are wrong, can put you at risk of enhanced scrutiny, which may result in otherwise unnecessary delay, ticketing, arrest or worse.
Whatever your legal challenge, we will listen to your concerns and answer your questions about likely outcomes and consequences. We deal with DWI and traffic arrests in Columbia, MO. Contact Holder Susan Slusher, LLC today for a free consultation or case review. Bogdan Susan manages our DWI area of the practice. While we are based in Columbia, MO across the street from the Boone County Court House, we help clients in several parts of Missouri.
The information on this web page does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney- client relationship. If you believe you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.