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DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint

If you have been arrested for DUI at a DUI Roadblock or Sobriety Checkpoint in the Tampa Bay Area including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas County, Tampa, Hillsborough County, or surrounding counties, contact the Morris Law Firm, P.A. for specific information on DUI Roadblock and Sobriety Checkpoint cases in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.

St. Petersburg DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint Attorney

What is DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint?

A DUI Roadblock or Sobriety Checkpoint is a method used by law enforcement to identify impaired drivers. Warning lights and signs along with law enforcement vehicles are utilized to delineate the roadblock which typically blocks an entire road or route. Vehicles passing through the Roadblock are usually queued in lines where officers can stop each vehicle (or every nth vehicle) to process them through the Checkpoint.

DUI Roadblocks are often set up when and where law enforcement believes they will have the best chances of intercepting impaired drivers – typically on nights, early in the morning, weekends, and holidays. Law enforcement often coordinates local DUI Roadblock activity with nationwide drunk driving crackdowns sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

DUI Roadblock - Sobriety Checkpoint

What to Expect at a DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint:

The approach to a DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint is usually marked with cones, lights and signs. Law enforcement vehicles with their lights on are also typically present. Signs and officers will instruct drivers to reduce their speed as they are queued into lines for processing.

As each vehicle (or nth vehicle) is stopped at the Checkpoint, an officer will ask for the driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. During this brief interaction with the driver, the officer is looking for signs of impairment that will provide probable cause to conduct an investigation for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). During the initial interaction with the driver the officer looks for bloodshot or glassy appearance of the eyes, any odor of alcohol on the breath, or slurred or slow speech. If the officer observes any of these signs of impairment they can claim probable cause to conduct a HGN (horizontal gaze nystagmus) Test and Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) to attempt to prove impairment. Field Sobriety Tests are then conducted in a separate area of the Checkpoint.

Should the driver fail the FSTs, they are placed under arrest for suspicion of DUI and per Florida Statute 316.1932 (1)(a)1.a. requested to submit to, “an approved chemical test or physical test,” which is usually a breath test to determine the alcoholic content of his or her blood or breath. The breath test is typically conducted in a mobile breath alcohol testing vehicle or “BAT Mobile” after a 20 minute observation period. A breath alcohol test is then conducted using the Intoxilyzer 8000. Any result of .08 or above is considered to be legally impaired.

The driver will then be sequestered in a holding area at the Checkpoint with other detainees until the officers are prepared to transport them to jail for processing. The driver’s automobile will also be towed and impounded from the scene of the Checkpoint.

 

Are DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints Legal / Constitutional?:

While it is widely argued that DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints are violations of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution (being stopped without probable cause or a search warrant), they are in fact legal in the United States and specifically in Florida ((483 So.2d 433 (Fla. 1985)).

Their legality was established by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz (1990). While the Supreme Court acknowledged that DUI Roadblocks infringe on a constitutional right, Chief Justice Rehnquist argued that the state interest in reducing Driving Under the Influence outweighed the infringement, and that Sobriety Checkpoints were in fact effective and necessary.

 

How to Challenge a DUI Arrest stemming from a DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoint:

While it has been established that DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints are Constitutional, they still come under heightened scrutiny based on how the practice infringes on the 4th Amendment. It has been established in Florida that DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints must use specific guidelines to standardize practices and methods while limiting the discretion of law enforcement officers all in an effort to control the practice’s infringement on the 4th Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court in their decision on DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints did not specify the standards or guidelines – it is up to individual states to have in place guidelines that must be strictly followed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides standard processes and procedures that many states follow. The following are some of the NHTSA's guidelines for DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints:

  • The DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints must be part of a continuous program whose principal purpose is to deter driving under the influence
  • The local judicial system should be in support of the method
  • Before the Roadblock / Checkpoint event, proper procedures must be established for how it will be executed
  • If the Roadblock / Checkpoint time, location, or process and procedures are altered, they should be well documented
  • The Roadblocks should be strategically selected for reasons of public safety, and for a specific goal - such as reducing DUI accidents in a particular high volume area
  • Advance warnings should be given to drivers that a Roadblock will occur
  • Demarcations of the Roadblock / Checkpoint should be obvious to alert drivers that they approaching a Checkpoint
  • Law Enforcement should make their presence clearly known
  • Drivers suspected and arrested for Driving Under the Influence should be taken for DUI chemical testing within a reasonable amount of time
  • The Roadblock / Checkpoint must not interfere with the flow of traffic
  • The Roadblock / Checkpoint should not distract other drivers
  • The Roadblock / Checkpoint must be arranged such that drivers may avoid the Checkpoint
  • Properly trained law enforcement officers must perform all DUI investigations
  • The process and procedure that law enforcement plan to use at the Roadblock / Checkpoint for DUI investigations must be established in advance
  • The process and procedure must be uniformly applied
  • Drivers stopped at the Roadblock / Checkpoint should be asked for feedback

Where it can be proved that law enforcement did not appropriately follow the specific guidelines in place, a Motion to Suppress can be filed, and if granted can eliminate any evidence obtained at the DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint, often resulting in a dismissal of the case.

Information on Upcoming Local Tampa Bay DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints:

As stated above, local law enforcement must provide advanced warning that a DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint will occur.

The St. Petersburg Police Department lists upcoming DUI Checkpoints in their Press Releases:
St. Petersburg Police (Pinellas County) (St. Petersburg, FL)

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has established Operation 3D as a public awareness plan ability to help deal with Driving Under the Influence:
Hillsborough County DUI (Tampa, FL)

Additionally, the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune can be searched for upcoming DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints which must be published by local law enforcement.


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Potential Defenses:

We will strive to file any necessary motions to dismiss or motions to attempt to exclude evidence in an effort to maximize your opportunity for a positive outcome. As your criminal defense lawyer, we will represent you at any necessary pre?trial hearings, pre?trial motions, and at trial.

 


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<h3What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested:

1. Don't speak to the police - ask to have an attorney present.
2. Don't give a written statement – again, ask to have an attorney present.
3. Contact an attorney immediately.
4. Collect and document your own evidence.

 


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Time is of the essence.

You only have TEN (10) DAYS after your arrest to file a motion to challenge the administrative suspension of your license. You must act within ten (10) days of your arrest to challenge this administrative suspension.

Hire the Morris Law Firm and let us fight for you

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Morris Law Firm, P.A. | St. Petersburg DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint Attorney

If you have been arrested at a DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint, contact a St. Petersburg drunk driving Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case. Call the Morris Law Firm, P.A. at (727) 388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our online form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation. The Morris Law Firm, P.A. can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending DUI offenders throughout Florida.

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