DUI checkpoints (also known as “mobile checkpoints” or “roadblocks”) are traffic stops not prompted by individual suspicions by police. In Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz (1990), the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints. In that case, the Court ruled that the “degree of intrusion” resulting from sobriety checkpoints does not exceed the danger drunk drivers pose on the road.

However, the Rhode Island Constitution is more protective than the United States Constitution. Therefore, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that DUI checkpoints are illegal in Pimental v. Dept. of Transp., 561 A.2d 1348, (1989). The Court there found that “allowing such roadblocks or checkpoints would diminish the guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures contained in the Rhode Island Constitution. It is illogical to permit law enforcement officers to stop fifty or a hundred vehicles on the speculative chance that one or two may be driven by a person who has violated the law in regard to intoxication. We therefore hold that roadblocks or checkpoints, established to apprehend persons violating the law against driving under the influence of intoxicating beverages or drugs, operate without probable cause or reasonable suspicion and violate the Rhode Island Constitution.” As a result, in order to be stopped by the police in Rhode Island, police officers must have at least reasonable suspicion to believe that the operator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Keep in mind that most states do allow for DUI checkpoints, such as neighboring Massachusetts. Our DUI attorneys have answered other various checkpoint questions for this reason.

Can you turn around before a DUI checkpoint?

Drivers are not legally obligated to drive through a DUI checkpoint if the checkpoint can be avoided without breaking a traffic law (i.e. making an illegal “U” turn). Turning onto a side street or turning around before passing through a DUI checkpoint is generally not against the law. Turning around should not, in and of itself, give the police reasonable suspicion required to make a DUI stop.

Do DUI checkpoints have to be announced?

Generally, yes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has created several guidelines for police officers conducting DUI checkpoints. In addition to NHTSA guidelines, various states have enacted guidelines that police officers must follow to include the advertisement of checkpoint locations ahead of time.

What happens if you get a DUI in Rhode Island?

Getting a DUI in Rhode Island or any state, is no laughing matter. Penalties vary depending on the driver’s BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) and whether or not it is a subsequent offense. Typical penalties include hefty fines, license suspensions, community service, mandatory highway safety assessments, mandatory alcohol and/or drug treatment, and in some cases, even imprisonment.

Why Should I Hire a DUI Attorney Under These Circumstances?

You may think your case seems pretty straight-forward and that it will likely be a waste of money to hire an attorney for your defense. However, each DUI case is different, and the outcome of a case may fall on the presentation of defense, which is much more likely to be in your favor if you retain representation!

For more information, contact the skilled Rhode Island criminal defense attorneys at Abilheira

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