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What can Virginia drivers expect in a sobriety checkpoint?

On Behalf of | Feb 7, 2022 | DUI

Sobriety checkpoints are a controversial tool in law enforcement’s toolbox. They cast a wide net in their quest to get drunk drivers off the road. All but 11 states allow sobriety checkpoints, and Virginia is one of those states.

So, how do these checkpoints work? Are they avoidable or compulsory? What do drivers need to know? Let’s examine some of the important things to know about sobriety checkpoints in Virginia.

Drivers get advance warning

Under Virginia’s implied consent laws that apply to all licensed drivers, law enforcement agencies scheduling the checkpoints must publicly announce when they will be held. Sometimes, they will even give geographical clues as to their location, e.g., “on the west side of town.”

Each car does not get stopped

Prior to the establishment of the checkpoint, a predetermined pattern is set for the stops. For instance, it could be every fourth car gets stopped while the others get waved through by an officer in the road. This is done to prevent the police from engaging in racial profiling by targeting only certain groups.

Officers may not detain drivers for long

Police doing the sobriety checkpoints can only briefly detain drivers during the stops. They also are not supposed to ask you where you have been or where you are heading. Only if a driver exhibits signs of intoxication during the brief stop may they be detained further on suspicion of drunk driving.

Sobriety checkpoints reduce DUI deaths

Statistics indicate that sobriety checkpoints thwart one out of 10 DUI-related deaths. That is a noble purpose for sure, as noted by the United States Supreme Court’s ruling that drivers’ degree of intrusion from the stops is overridden by the checkpoints’ benefit to society at large.

What to do if you are detained at a checkpoint?

Remember you have a Constitutional right against self-incrimination. Do not answer police questions or participate in roadside sobriety tests. Verbalize that you are invoking the right to remain silent until you get to speak to a criminal defense attorney.