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DUI Checkpoints in Ohio & 5 Tips if You’re Stopped

Posted On: October 16th, 2023   |   Posted by: Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
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Intoxicated drivers present a significant hazard on Ohio’s roads, and it is a prime concern for law enforcement. They employ various strategies to curtail this threat, from pulling over suspicious vehicles to setting up DUI checkpoints. Often, these checkpoints, especially when unexpected, can be intimidating. Many drivers, even if they’re sober and law-abiding, feel pressured or uneasy.

Typically, DUI checkpoints see an uptick during weekends, holidays, or on days coinciding with major events where alcohol consumption might be higher. The idea is to act as a deterrent and to catch those who risk the safety of others by driving impaired.

However, every individual has rights. If you ever find yourself at such a checkpoint, knowing what to expect, how to act, and what your rights are is imperative.

If you are charged with an OVI or another crime after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint, contact the Ohio DUI defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates. We’ll explain the situation and how we can help. Call (614) 500-3836 for a free consultation.

Ohio DUI Checkpoints

In Ohio, DUI checkpoints (often called “sobriety checkpoints” or “OVI checkpoints” for Operating a Vehicle Impaired) are short-term traffic stops to catch drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld these checkpoints’ constitutionality in the case Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz.

However, there are guidelines that law enforcement must follow when conducting these checkpoints to ensure they remain within legal and constitutional bounds.

Public Notification of Sobriety Checkpoints

DUI checkpoints are typically set up on major roadways and highways, especially during high-traffic times, such as holidays and weekends. DUI checkpoints are also more likely to be set up in areas with a history of alcohol-related accidents.

Typically, the police or Ohio state highway patrol will provide public notice of the checkpoint in advance. This is usually done through local media outlets such as social media, newspapers, television news, and sometimes radio. This notice should include the time, date, and location of the checkpoint. The idea behind this is that announcing increased enforcement will deter drinking and driving in the first place.

How to Identify an OVI Checkpoint

Checkpoints are typically identifiable by prominent reflective signs and marked police vehicles. Up until this area, cars have the option to turn back. However, once you’ve entered the section delineated by cones, accompanied by a sign indicating an upcoming sobriety checkpoint, you’re legally obligated to proceed through it. Given the noticeable presence of flares, mobile lighting, and police vehicles, this zone is hard to miss.

Is it Illegal to Turn Around at a Checkpoint?

If you are not in the designated checkpoint area, drivers can legally avoid a DUI checkpoint with lawful maneuvers like turning around or taking another route. However, keep in mind:

  • Always turn or reroute legally.
  • Avoiding a checkpoint might be seen as suspicious by police, and some checkpoints have secondary patrols monitoring those who avoid them.
  • DUI checkpoint regulations can differ by state or locality.

What Drivers Can Expect During a DUI Checkpoint

Vehicles that pass through the designated area will be directed into the checkpoint lane, often using cones and signs. During a DUI checkpoint, drivers can generally expect:

  • A Brief Stop – Typically, not every vehicle is stopped. Officers normally stop vehicles based on a pattern (e.g., every third vehicle).
  • Basic Questions: Officers will ask for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance and observe you for signs of impairment. They may also ask where you are coming from, where you are going, and whether you have consumed alcohol or drugs.
  • Officer Observation: During the interaction, officers will look for signs of impairment. This may include slurred speech, smell of alcohol or drugs, bloodshot or watery eyes, and incoherent or inconsistent responses.
  • Field Sobriety Tests: If there’s suspicion of impairment, drivers may be asked to perform DUI tests, such as walking in a straight line, standing on one leg, or a preliminary breath test.
  • The Outcome: Drivers deemed not impaired will be allowed to proceed. Those suspected of being under the influence might be arrested and their vehicle potentially impounded. Typically, the stop is brief unless further tests are deemed necessary.

Your Rights & Obligations During an OVI Checkpoint

You have certain rights and obligations if you’re stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Ohio and suspected of driving under the influence. While it’s essential to cooperate with law enforcement, you also have the right to decline specific tests and to speak with an attorney.

  • Your Right Remain Silent -While you must provide identification, you do not need to answer potentially incriminating questions. Politely decline or state that you wish to speak to an attorney before answering further questions.
  • Exiting the Vehicle: If the officer reasonably suspects you may be impaired, they may ask you to step out of the car. If asked, you should comply.
  • Field Sobriety Tests: Officers might ask you to perform standardized field sobriety tests. While you have the right to refuse these tests, doing so could lead to other consequences, including an arrest based on other evidence of impairment.
  • Breathalyzer or Blood Tests: Ohio has “implied consent” laws, which means that if you refuse a valid chemical test after being arrested for DUI, you can face automatic license suspension and other penalties.

Can Police Search Your Vehicle During a DUI Checkpoint?

At a DUI checkpoint, officers primarily seek impaired drivers. However, your vehicle can be searched if you consent, if officers have probable cause (like visible contraband or the smell of drugs), if you’re arrested (to ensure officer safety or preserve evidence), or in rare cases, a protective sweep for potential threats. Without these justifications, random searches at checkpoints aren’t permitted. If concerned about a search’s legality, consult with an attorney.

OVI Arrests at a Sobriety Checkpoint

If arrested for OVI, you’ll be taken to the police station, where you might be subjected to further testing, booked, and held until you can post bail. Beyond OVI, you could be charged with additional offenses depending on the circumstances, such as child endangerment (if a minor is in the vehicle), open container violations, possession of drugs, and resisting arrest, among others.

5 Tips for Navigating DUI Checkpoints in Ohio

By understanding the procedure and what police are looking for, drivers can be better prepared for a DUI checkpoint encounter.

1. Stay Calm

Driving up to a checkpoint can be nerve-wracking. However, remaining calm is paramount. While the officers are vigilant, they’re also trained to understand that DUI checkpoints can be stressful for law-abiding citizens. Your interaction can be brief and hassle-free by staying calm, cooperative, and polite.

2. Provide Essential Documents

When stopped, there are a few documents you’re obligated by law to present:

  • Your driver’s license.
  • Proof of insurance
  • Vehicle registration

Be ready with these documents to avoid unnecessary delays.

3. Understand Your Rights

Your rights are not suspended at a checkpoint. Remember:

  • You’re not obligated to answer questions that might incriminate you. While you can inform the officer if you haven’t been drinking, you aren’t mandated to disclose this.
  • You can refuse sobriety tests, including breathalyzer tests. However, Ohio’s implied consent laws mean that refusal can result in a license suspension, even if you’re sober.
  • If uncertain or uncomfortable, you can always request to speak with an attorney before proceeding.

4. Avoid Volunteering Extra Info

While being cooperative is advised, avoid volunteering more information than is required. Sometimes, in our eagerness to be transparent, we might offer details that could be misinterpreted. Speak when spoken to and stick to the point. The less you say, the less there is to use against you.

5. Reach Out to an Attorney

If you find yourself detained or arrested, your immediate step should be to contact your attorney. Many hesitate, fearing it might be a sign of guilt. However, attorneys are there to ensure your rights are protected. It’s always recommended to involve your attorney as early as possible.

Legal Representation is Critical after a Checkpoint Arrest

Checkpoints serve a broader public safety goal. Yet, they can sometimes lead to situations where innocent people find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Maybe a sobriety test gave a false positive, or there was a misunderstanding.

Being charged with a DUI can have far-reaching consequences immediately and in the long run. From hefty fines, license suspensions, and potential jail time to the lingering effects on employment and personal life – it’s a serious matter.

However, being arrested for OVI after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint is not an open-and-shut issue. Procedural mistakes happen, medical conditions are frequently misinterpreted as symptoms of impairment, and any number of factors may help you secure a favorable resolution to a DUI charge.

If you, or someone you know, have faced a DUI charge stemming from a checkpoint stop, don’t wait to speak to a lawyer. Having someone on your side who can advocate for those rights can make all the difference.

Contact LHA for a Free DUI Consult

If you or a loved one have been charged with OVI in Ohio following a DUI checkpoint, contact the experienced DUI legal team at LHA. We’re available 24/7 and have assisted countless people in situations like yours. Call (614) 954-8890 for a free and confidential OVI case evaluation.

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