The holiday season is coming up fast, and that means holiday gatherings, meals and parties. It also means the return of another holiday sight: the DUI checkpoint.
DUI or “sobriety” checkpoints are legal in the vast majority of states, and that includes Colorado. Officers have to follow the correct procedures. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such checkpoints are valid under the U.S. Constitution, subject to state laws. These checkpoints tend to pop up pretty regularly once the winter holidays start.
What are your rights in Colorado when you encounter one? Here’s what you should know:
Can you turn around?
Yes, it’s legal to turn around. Since advance warning of a sobriety checkpoint is a legal requirement in Colorado, you will probably have plenty of opportunity to change your route. However, do so cautiously. If you violate any traffic laws (by taking an illegal U-turn, for example), that’s enough to get a ticket, and you’ll end up drawing extra scrutiny.
Do you have to comply?
If you reach the checkpoint, you are required to stop as directed by the police and provide your driver’s license and registration upon request. This initiates what is basically a routine traffic stop – unless you give the officer any reason to believe that you might be impaired. The odor of alcohol on your breath and empty beer cans or drug paraphernalia in plain view can all transform the traffic stop into a DUI investigation.
What else should you know?
The rest of the normal rules for any DUI stop still apply. You are not legally required to perform field sobriety tests. Since those are usually “fishing expeditions,” and they’re hard to perform for many people, it’s usually wisest to decline. You do, however, have to submit to a chemical breath test if requested (or you put your license at risk).
The best plan to avoid a DUI during the holidays is to just not drink and drive. Just the same, if you made a mistake, don’t let it affect your future without a fight.