The holiday season brings busy roads and festive celebrations -- often including alcohol. The Georgia police know this, and they’re ramping up drunk driving enforcement. Find out what you should know about DUI checkpoints, and what you can do to prevent your holiday season from being ruined by drunk driving charges.
In this blog post, I will discuss Georgia’s drunk driving roadblocks. I will explain when and how the police can stop you to check for drunk or drugged driving, and what you should know as police set up this year’s holiday DUI checkpoints.
In 2018, over 1,000 people were killed in drunk driving crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day nationwide. To combat this, state and local police often increase DUI enforcement around the holidays. They are on the lookout for signs of intoxication, which means you need to know what to expect, and how to respond if you are stopped.
DUI checkpoints are one of the tools Georgia police use to enforce drunk driving laws. These checkpoints allow the police to stop vehicles for the purpose of checking licenses, seat belts, and other issues associated with operating a motor vehicle. While checking the driver’s status, the law allows the officer to screen drivers to determine if the operator of a vehicle is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As parties increase during the holiday season, drinking and driving also increases around the holidays. Accordingly, police use checkpoints or roadblocks in higher frequency over the Christmas and New Years holiday.
However, the use of roadblocks or checkpoints are only allowed under certain circumstances. To be constitutionally legal, the police must follow specific rules in setting up the DUI roadblock. Some of the checkpoint rules require that:
If the DUI checkpoint was not set up properly and in accordance with the law, or the police do not follow the legal rules during the stop, your criminal defense attorney may be able to file a motion and get the evidence obtained at the stop excluded from your case. When that happens, the entire DUI case could possibly be dismissed.
If you do find yourself driving up to a Georgia DUI checkpoint, don’t panic. In some cases, taking actions to avoid the roadblock by making an illegal u-turn or other action can give the police a basis to follow you and stop your vehicle. Instead, approach the checkpoint slowly and follow the directions of the officers directing traffic. When the officer approaches, you will be asked to produce your driver’s license. Georgia law requires a driver to produce a driver’s license when asked to do so by law enforcement officers.
You should be cooperative with the officers performing the DUI checkpoint, but that doesn’t mean you need to do everything they tell you. While you should not lie to an officer, do not admit to having any alcohol, even one drink several hours before. Admissions to drinking, using drugs, or other activity may be used against you later if are arrested. I suggest you politely decline to answer the officer’s questions about your alcohol consumption or drug usage.
If the police working at the checkpoint reasonably suspect that you have been using alcohol, are under the influence of drugs, (or have committed any other crime), they may ask you to pull over or get out of the car. Generally, you should comply with their instructions. However, you have the legal right to refuse a roadside breathalyzer test or field sobriety tests. These tests are often inaccurate and provide a basis for an arrest and prosecution for drunk driving. Many people fail dexterity-based sobriety tests because of medical situations, disabilities, bad balance, or the conditions present when they are asked to perform field evaluations.
If the police believe you are under the influence, they will arrest you for driving under the influence. The police will read you a warning and ask you to take a breath or blood test. If drugs are suspected, they may request a urine test. You have the right to refuse the blood, breath, or urine testing. However, in some jurisdictions, the officer will apply for a search warrant and obtain a judge’s order authorizing the forced drawing of a blood sample.
DUI checkpoints aren’t the only source of charges involving driving under the influence. Impaired driving charges can arise anytime you are stopped by a police officer who then forms a belief that the driver is impaired. Once the stop begins, the process will generally be the same as at a DUI checkpoint. However, while the DUI checkpoint rules don’t apply to a traffic stop, there are other rules about how and when the police can pull you over. If you have been charged with DUI because of a traffic stop or accident, be sure to contact your criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An arrests occurring after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint can ruin your holidays and leave you facing criminal consequences after New Year’s Day. If you have been charged because the police say you were driving drunk, or under the influence of drugs, contact a criminal defense attorney right away -- even over the holidays -- to protect your rights and build your case.
Lance McCoy of The McCoy Law Firm, LLC, is a criminal and DUI defense attorney with 25 years of experience. From his family-owned law firm in Cartersville, Georgia, he represents defendants facing prescription drug DUI charges throughout northwest Georgia. If you are facing Georgia DUI charges, please contact Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia so we can begin working on your case right away.