DUI Checkpoints in Georgia: Your Rights and Legal Authority

What is are DUI Checkpoints?

DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints, are police roadblocks in a predetermined location where law enforcement officers stop vehicles to check drivers for signs of impairment. Police typically set up sobriety checkpoints during times when impaired driving incidents are more likely, such as weekends and holidays. DUI checkpoints serve the compelling governmental interest of protecting public health and safety.

In Georgia, police conduct DUI checkpoints according to strict guidelines because they must pass constitutional muster. DUI Checkpoints must not violate any provisions of the U.S. Constitution or the Georgia Constitution. These guidelines include criteria for selecting checkpoint locations, procedures for stopping vehicles, and protocols for assessing driver impairment.

Sobriety Checkpoint

“A roadblock is satisfactory where [1] the decision to implement the roadblock was made by supervisory personnel rather than the officers in the field; [2] all vehicles are stopped as opposed to random vehicle stops; [3] the delay to motorists is minimal; [and] [4] the roadblock operation is well identified as a police checkpoint….” (Punctuation omitted.)

Brown v. State, 293 Ga. 787, 750 S.E.2d 148 (Ga. 2013); McCoy v State, 303 Ga. at 553, 814 S.E.2d 319, quoting Brown , 293 Ga. at 793 (2) (b), 750 S.E.2d 148.

“The State need no longer show, however, [833 S.E.2d 301] that “the screening officer’s training and experience is sufficient to qualify him to make an initial determination as to which motorists should be given field tests for intoxication[.]” (Punctuation omitted.) Id. Rather, the State is now required to show only that “the screening officer had reasonable, articulable suspicion to refer the defendant for further detention and field tests.” McCoy , 303 Ga. at 556, 814 S.E.2d 319.” 

Turner v. State, 833 S.E.2d 299, 352 Ga. App. 122 (Ga. App. 2019).

Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint

Here are some of your rights when approaching or encountering a DUI checkpoint in Georgia:

Stopping at DUI Checkpoints:

You are legally required to stop as directed by law enforcement at a DUI checkpoint.  If a police officer asks for identification, you must provide your name and identification.  The operator of a motor vehicle must have on their person a valid license to drive and proof of insurance.

Evading a DUI Checkpoint:

An attempt to evade the checkpoint might serve as reasonable articulable suspicion for a traffic stop. Turning without using an indicator or an abrupt U-turn could be suspicious.  Nevertheless, turning around to avoid a traffic jam may not be a reasonable suspicion that would justify a stop.  In fact, the delay to motorists can only be minimal.

Minimal Detention:

While DUI checkpoints are legal, police officers are not permitted to detain you for an extended period without reasonable suspicion of impairment or another crime.  An open container in plain view is reasonable suspicion.

Standardized Field Sobriety Testing:

You do not have to submit to field testing. No negative inference is admissible in court for refusing testing. You do not need to take the eye tests (“HGN” or “VGN”), walk and turn, one legged stand, nor any other divided attention test. Similarly, a prosecutor cannot use a refusal to submit to a breath test against a defendant because it violates protections against self-incrimination.

Know Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint:

You have the right to remain silent. You also have the right to refuse a field sobriety test or portable breathalyzer test. However, refusing a chemical test of your blood or urine, whichever is specific by the office, and following arrest for DUI and the appropriate Georgia Implied Consent warning for your age, can result in more severe administrative penalties, such as the suspension of your driver’s license without a limited permit.

Document the Encounter

Make notes of the details as soon as possible after an arrest for DUI.  Immediately consult with a DUI lawyer. The DUI area of law is very specialized, much like a doctor specializing in a medical procedure.  DUI Defense contains a complicated history of statutes and case law that governs DUI probable cause, DUI checkpoints, Georgia Implied Consent, Automatic License Suspension (“ALS”), and motions filing deadlines. A DUI lawyer will very likely identify defenses of which you are unaware.