What Are DUI Checkpoints?

A DUI checkpoint is a legal stop made by law enforcement where they can assess whether drivers are behind the wheel under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Other names for DUI checkpoints include sobriety checkpoints and DUI roadblocks.  Typically, law enforcement stops people using a randomized pattern to check any person who falls within this sequence as they approach the checkpoint.

I thought I was protected against unreasonable search and seizure?

Many people question how it can be legal for a Colorado DUI checkpoint to be in place.  Motorists cite the U.S. Constitution, questioning how their rights can be infringed upon when police are required to have probable cause for pulling a person over as stated by the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

Many people cannot understand how a DUI checkpoint could be legal as there is no way to establish probable cause.  Well, within Colorado law, there is a small exception made by the Supreme Court that allows for DUI checkpoints to increase public safety by protecting against impaired driving.  These checks are fully legal but are still subject to regulation, protecting people who are stopped from unfair treatment or intrusive measures.

Is there ever a time when a DUI checkpoint becomes illegal?

While Colorado DUI checkpoints are legal, in order to remain constitutional in nature, they must meet several criteria.  These requirements include limited inconvenience to persons stopped, randomness, and a consistent way of stopping vehicles as to remain non-discriminatory.  For checkpoints that do not follow these criteria, it will not be immediately considered illegal activity, but the lack of meeting some of these criteria may bring into question the legality of the checkpoint.

Violations that will be immediately considered unconstitutional in nature include a range of wrong or unsafe procedures.  If the DUI checkpoint lacks official procedures or roadblocks, causes a traffic hazard, or is discriminatory in how it picks vehicles, it may be considered unconstitutional.

What Should I Expect at a Colorado DUI Checkpoint?

If you are wondering how to find advance notice of upcoming checkpoints, be sure to check the Colorado Department of Transportation’s website.  Typically, these checkpoints occur on or around days when people are likely to be heavy drinking, including St. Patrick’s Day, July 4th, and New Year’s Eve.

When you approach a Colorado, DUI checkpoint you should be warned in advance by signals such as lights, uniformed law enforcement, and marked police vehicles.  Part of the road should be blocked off, into a designed lane or two.  The officer will approach your vehicle in much the same manner as a routine traffic stop.  You will be legally required to produce your driver’s license and registration at this time.  The entire purpose of the stop is for law enforcement to ensure you can produce documentation (license and registration), you do not appear intoxicated, smell intoxicated, or have drug, alcohol, or drug paraphernalia present in your vehicle.  Remember if you wish to avoid a checkpoint you may legally turn around providing you can do so in a safe manner without violating any traffic laws.

If the officer has reason to suspect that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may be asked to take a breath test or field sobriety test, both of which are optional and carry no legal consequence.  If you choose to submit to such testing beware this evidence can be used against you in a court of law to establish proof of intoxication.  An officer with a reason to believe you are driving under the influence can arrest you for various reasons including DUI (drug and/or alcohol), DWAI, and underage DUI.

If you face arrest and related charges due to a Colorado DUI checkpoint, don’t hesitate to contact a skilled Colorado DUI attorney.  An experienced lawyer can help improve your defense.