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DWI Checkpoints FAQs

DWI checkpoints can be challenged

Police are permitted to set up roadblocks for the specific purpose of detecting drunk drivers. These roadblocks are constitutional because courts have ruled that detecting drunk drivers and removing them from the roadway is an important societal interest that trumps the right of drivers to be free from brief seizures at checkpoints.

Sobriety checkpoints are usually conducted late at night and in the early morning hours, and tend to be located in areas where a high number of bars and restaurants-and, presumably drunken drivers-may be found. The constitutionality of checkpoints can be challenged where their timing, placement or operation do not appear to be reasonably related to detecting drunken drivers. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are well versed in the rules, procedures, and intricacies surrounding DWI checkpoints and arrests, and have many years of experience fighting on behalf of clients arrested at sobriety checkpoints.

Should I try to avoid a DWI checkpoint?

Many drivers may think that they can avoid a DWI checkpoint by simply turning around and driving away. In most cases, a driver will be followed and stopped if one turns away from a checkpoint.

In general, police officers have to have reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot in order to pull a driver over. In 2013, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that even if a driver makes legal turn before arriving at a checkpoint, the police may be permitted to follow the driver and pull him or her over. The court held that the police must view a driver's conduct "in the totality of the circumstances" to determine whether one turned for the purpose of avoiding the checkpoint. Factors that a court may consider when conducting this "totality of the circumstances" analysis may include the speed at which a driver was traveling, whether a driver applied the brakes suddenly, and whether the driver performed a legal maneuver when turning away from the checkpoint. Of course, if the driver had a valid reason for turning-such as the driver lived on the street onto which he or she turned-it may be easier to convince a court that the driver was not seeking to avoid the checkpoint and therefore should not have been followed, stopped or arrested.

Employing an experienced DWI defense attorney is crucial for any driver accused of DWI or accused of crimes connected with a DWI checkpoint. If the police officer who stopped a driver did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that the driver had committed a crime, any charges brought against the driver may be dismissed. In practical terms, hiring an experienced DWI defense attorney may mean the difference between winning and losing your case.

When I see a checkpoint do I have to stop?

Drivers who encounter a sobriety checkpoint on a public roadway in the State of North Carolina are required to stop at the checkpoint and to produce identification if it is requested. If a person drives through a checkpoint without stopping, one may be arrested for attempting to elude an officer who was in the lawful performance of his duties.

Most encounters with police officers at sobriety checkpoints are brief, but despite the brevity of the encounter, the officers manning the checkpoint are trained to spot what they consider to be telltale signs of intoxication. These signs of intoxication include the odor of alcohol emanating from a person's breath, slurred speech, glassy or red eyes, or impaired dexterity which may be indicated, for instance, by fumbling to find identification.

If a police officer suspects that a person is driving while impaired, he or she may ask the driver to submit to certain tests. Many times, officers ask drivers to exit their vehicles and submit to field-sobriety tests. An officer may also ask a driver to submit to a test of the driver's breath, which may detect the presence and/or amount of alcohol in a driver's breath.

In general, a person cannot be forced to submit to these tests, however North Carolina law provides that if an officer has probable cause to suspect a driver is impaired, the driver must submit to a blood or breath test, or else one's driver's license can be seized. This is known as "implied consent." By simply by driving on the roadways, the law provides, drivers consent to submit to testing to determine their blood-alcohol content. In addition, an officer may obtain a warrant compelling a driver to submit to a blood test.

DWI cases can be extremely complicated, so hiring an experienced DWI defense attorney is essential in prosecuting your defenses to the State's charges. The lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are experienced in handling DWI cases and will work tirelessly to defend you against DWI charges. Give us a call today at (704) 370-2828 to set up an appointment or Contact Us here.