Understanding the Rights of Drivers at Florida DUI Checkpoints

by Aaron Delgado
07/01/15 (Updated: 08/15/19)

Every day, people throughout Volusia County are arrested for suspected drunk driving. In fact, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that there were 1,291 DUI arrests in the county in 2014 alone. Some of these motorists, like others who are charged with drunk driving, may have been taken into custody after being stopped at DUI checkpoints. To avoid incriminating themselves, and the potential penalties that accompany DUI convictions, it is important for people to understand their rights as these types of stops.

Answering questions

When they are stopped at DUI checkpoints, it is common for the law enforcement officers running the stop to approach drivers and ask them some questions. Often, they use their answers, behavior, the things they observe and other information gleaned during such questioning as probable cause to investigate further. Many motorists speak with the authorities at these stops because they believe they have to, or they feel obligated. However, drivers are generally under no legal obligation to respond to questioning at DUI checkpoints.

The USA Today reported recently that some drivers are keeping their windows rolled up at these types of stops. Instead of talking to the authorities, people may choose to show them, or present them with, a card or flyer that indicates they wish to invoke their constitutional rights. This includes the right not to speak with law enforcement officers until after they have consulted with an attorney, and being allowed to leave if they are not being charged.

Performing field sobriety tests

If after speaking with them, the authorities believe that drivers may be under the influence of alcohol, they may ask them to perform field sobriety tests. While motorists generally have the right to decline to participate in such tests, doing so could work in their favor if they have not consumed any alcohol. Often, law enforcement officers neglect to inform people of their right to refuse to perform field sobriety tests when they are making their requests.

Consenting to chemical testing

If they are given probable cause, the authorities may ask drivers to submit to chemical testing, including breath and blood tests. Once they are placed under arrest, drivers may refuse such tests, however, doing so carries penalties. Under Florida's implied consent law, people automatically consent to chemical testing when they drive in the state.

As such, refusing a Breathalyzer test is considered a misdemeanor offense for anyone who has a previous refusal on his or her record. The penalties that this offense carries are typically imposed in addition to those that may be ordered for a DUI conviction. According to Florida state law, drivers are subject to a one-year suspension of their driver's licenses for a first time refusal. Those who have previously had their licenses suspended for refusing a breath test are subject to an 18-month suspension.

Being charged with a DUI in the state of Florida may lead to severe penalties, with potentially long-term implications. Therefore, those who have been arrested for alcohol-related offenses may benefit from working with an attorney. A legal representative may explain their options, as well as help them build a defense, which may include questioning whether their rights were upheld during a DUI checkpoint.

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