You may encounter a police checkpoint while driving in North Carolina. Officers may ask for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance. However, if you’re not careful, you can easily make a mistake that will get you in trouble. This blog post will discuss 12 mistakes to avoid at a police checkpoint.
Knowing your rights and what mistakes to avoid at a sobriety checkpoint is crucial. Follow these tips, and you’ll likely be on your way without problems!
Mistake #1- Making a U-Turn
It’s natural to want to avoid sobriety checkpoints. No one wants to submit to a stop by law enforcement agencies.
However, you could get pulled over and ticketed if you make a U-turn to avoid a checkpoint. Turning around if you see a sobriety checkpoint could worsen your situation.
When officers set up a checkpoint, they station “turnaround officers” to pull over any vehicles that turn around to avoid the checkpoint. Your effort to turn around gives officers the suspicion to stop you.
And if you’re causing traffic safety issues in your efforts to leave, you could face a ticket.
Mistake #2- Not Stopping at All
Even if you don’t feel comfortable stopping at a checkpoint roadblock, state law mandates that you acknowledge the police’s presence and stop. Not stopping could result in a ticket or even worse. You could face charges for fleeing to elude arrest, resisting arrest, delaying an officer, or obstruction of justice.
A checkpoint enforcement strategy can help prevent alcohol-impaired driving. So states have widely adopted site testing protocols for motorists.
Motorists who refuse to stop for police officers are suspect of impaired driving in enforcement patrol locations.
Mistake #3- Refusing to Show Your Driver’s License
Carrying your driver’s license and other necessary documents when driving is essential. A checkpoint officer will ask you to present your license, registration, and proof of insurance.
You can receive citations for not having a valid license or documents while driving. In some states, you must legally show identification anytime a law enforcement officer requests.
However, there is no “stop and identify” statute in North Carolina. Officers cannot legally ask you to identify yourself unless you are driving a vehicle or they have an articulable suspicion that you’re engaged in a crime.
Mistake #4- Answering Questions
The police may ask questions as part of their impaired driving enforcement investigation. You may politely refuse to answer any questions. You might say, for example, “Officer, I want to remain cooperative, but I don’t want to answer that without an attorney present.”
Repeating this statement with each question asked by officers is perfectly okay. You may think the officers are asking you general interest questions. However, be aware that their questions are intended to pick up on any sign you’ve been driving while impaired.
The problem with answering questions is that officers can use anything you say as evidence against you later on.
Mistake #5- Being Rude or Disrespectful
It’s crucial to remain polite and respectful when speaking to officers at a checkpoint. Being respectful and responsible while the officers collect information makes sense as a stopped driver.
Whether you are an impaired driver or not, your best bet for preventing a conviction is to conduct yourself well at roadblocks.
Mistake #6- Lying or Providing False Documents
Never lie or deceive an officer, and never provide false documents. Deliberately misleading statements could bring you a criminal charge. Lying to officers is never the right option, even if you’re attempting to avoid a ticket or other penalties.
It’s illegal to lie to police officers during a traffic stop. In North Carolina, it’s a crime to give false information to a law enforcement officer (G.S. 14-225). Doing so can result in severe consequences if your lie comes out later.
Mistake #7- Taking Roadside Field Tests
An officer may ask you to blow into a roadside/portable device for testing alcohol. You do not need to submit to a test of your breath roadside. It is also unnecessary to do any other field tests that officers ask impaired drivers to perform.
If you worry that you could fail a breathalyzer, let the officer know you would like to call an attorney to witness the testing at the police station instead. By law, the officers must give you 30 minutes for your attorney to arrive and observe the testing.
Refusal to take a breath monitor test on the side of the road can prove to officers that you’ve been drinking and may lead to arrest for suspicion of DWI. However, if you are an impaired driver, waiting and taking the test at the station after your arrest is better than submitting it to a roadside test.
You can face charges for DWI if police find you:
- With a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% or more, no matter what your age
- Appreciably (i.e. noticeably) impaired even if they don’t have results of alcohol or drug in your system
- With any amount of Schedule I controlled substances (G.S. 90-89) or metabolites in your blood or urine.
If an officer believes you are on an impairing substance, they can arrest you and test you at the station. However, taking a roadside breath test while drinking is never a good idea.
Mistake #8- Sudden Moves or Actions
It’s important to stay still and avoid any sudden moves, as officers can interpret them as an attempt to hide illegal contraband.
Sudden movements can make the officers suspicious even if you are not doing anything wrong. In worst-case scenarios, an officer may think you are reaching for a weapon.
Mistake #9- Talking Too Much
It’s crucial to answer questions truthfully. However, continuing to give information no one asked for doesn’t make sense. And you have the right to remain silent.
If officers arrest you for DWI, do not talk without an attorney present. Officers may use anything you say against you later in court.
You need a DWI attorney to avoid a conviction that will stay on your permanent record. After police arrest you for suspicion of DWI, the officer will take you downtown and ask you to submit to a breath test.
Mistake #10- Refusing to Do What the Officer Asks
Once you stop at a police checkpoint, it’s important to obey officers’ instructions. If you don’t follow their orders, you could face serious consequences such as civil citations or even arrest.
However, obeying does not mean doing whatever an officer asks you to do. You can politely refuse any field tests to determine your sobriety. You may also refuse to answer questions about your actions.
Officers routinely make arrests for DWI based on your answer to a simple question such as, “Where are you coming from?” If you tell officers that you just left a bar, they will assume you’ve been drunk driving or are under the influence of other drugs.
The best policy is to remain cooperative without giving up your legal rights.
Mistake #11- Not Understanding Your Rights
Specific laws govern police checkpoints. These laws grant you rights.
Understanding your rights is essential, so you don’t waive them unknowingly.
The 4th amendment of the US Constitution reads, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” For this reason, sobriety checkpoints face challenges in court.
In 1990, the US Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints are constitutional as long as officers reasonably conduct them. The court reasoned that sobriety checkpoints are a “minimal intrusion” on drivers and that the state’s interest in preventing drunk driving outweighs that intrusion.
However, by law, officers must also establish probable cause before detaining or questioning an individual. In the case of sobriety checkpoints, the Supreme Court states that law enforcement must follow national guidelines, with twelve states outlining additional protocols on top of the federal regulations.
The most crucial protocol in North Carolina requires law enforcement to publicize where and when checkpoints will take place ahead of time. If the law enforcement agency fails to do so, you may use their lack of notice as part of your defense if charged with DWI.
Mistake #12- Carrying Illegal Items
If officers find you carrying illegal items, such as drugs or weapons, this could result in serious criminal charges. For example, having a concealed weapon without a concealed carry permit is illegal in NC unless you are at home.
Part of the purpose of police checkpoints is to stop crime and interfere with impaired driving. Police checkpoints may focus on whether you show signs of alcohol or drug use and any other relevant criminal activity.
Worst Mistake: Not Calling an Experienced DWI Attorney
If a court of law convicts you of a first-time DWI, you will lose your right to drive for one year and pay a fine of $200-$500, as well as court costs and attorney fees. You will also need to complete a DWI education program and may need to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, depending on your blood alcohol level (BAC).
In addition to driver’s license suspensions, DWI consequences may include:
- Thousands of dollars in court costs and fines
- Possible or mandatory jail time
- Alcohol abstinence through an alcohol monitoring device
- Community service requirements
- Enrollment in alcohol or substance abuse education courses
- Higher car insurance premiums
- Additional penalties from the Department of Transportation
Because cars can so easily hurt or kill others, police checkpoints exist as crime control for driving while impaired (DWI). However, many legal defenses are available to defend you in a court of law.
With an experienced DWI attorney, you can often prove that searches or tests conducted by police were not legally permitted. Your attorney may also question the legality of the checkpoint.
Our Experienced DWI Attorneys Can Help
At Scharff Law, our committed DWI attorneys help you find your best defense for DWI resulting from sobriety checkpoints. Because sobriety checkpoints are questionable legal grounds, there are many ways to prove your fourth amendment rights have been violated.
We understand the stress of facing DWI charges, so we protect your rights every step of the way. Our experienced attorneys are here to provide representation through the entire legal process.
If you were charged with a DWI due to a sobriety checkpoint violation in North Carolina, contact us today for a free consultation and find out your next best steps!