For most people, the holiday season, which traditionally begins on Thanksgiving in late November and ends on New Year’s Day, is a time for family and friends to get together. Wherever they may be, people will come home if they can to join their loved ones in celebrating the holidays.
However, some see the holiday season as an opportunity to binge drink, as alcohol is typically served at parties.
The problem is, many drunk holiday revelers choose to get behind the wheel of their cars and drive around town, putting themselves and other people in danger.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving accidents are more prevalent during the holidays. In 2018 alone, there were 285 drunk-driving-related deaths during the New Year’s and Christmas periods.
With the number of drunk-driving-related accidents tending to rise during the holidays, authorities typically set up holiday DUI checkpoints. Drunk drivers who get apprehended at these holiday DUI checkpoints will likely need a DUI defense attorney later on.
To get a better idea of what holiday DUI checkpoints are all about, here are some things you need to know about them.
Holiday DUI Checkpoints May Be Illegal In Some States
The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that DUI checkpoints are constitutional, stating that keeping drunk drivers off the road carries more weight than the inconvenience and privacy issues of motorists.
However, DUI checkpoints are deemed unconstitutional in Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. Wisconsin and Wyoming, meanwhile, have statutes prohibiting DUI checkpoints.
Much of the opposition to DUI checkpoints revolves around the argument that police need to have probable cause before they can stop a vehicle. It is not uncommon for some police officers at DUI checkpoints to stop cars, and in some cases, search them, with or without reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed.
Police Must Notify The Public About Holiday DUI Checkpoints
At some point, you might have come across an announcement from law enforcement authorities that they will be setting up a holiday DUI checkpoint somewhere at an appointed time.
If you’re wondering why this is the case, law enforcement agencies are legally required to notify the public when and where they intend to set up a holiday DUI checkpoint. Typically, they use law enforcement websites, local news stations, local newspapers, and advertising to announce their DUI checkpoint plans.
Holiday DUI Checkpoints Have Rules To Follow
As a way of safeguarding the rights of motorists, states that allow DUI checkpoints during the holidays or otherwise impose rules that law enforcement officers must follow.
The rules may vary from state to state, but they generally include:
- Implementing a neutral formula for picking which vehicles to stop, like stopping every fourth car, three consecutive vehicles out of every ten, or all red cars to avoid accusations of being biased in their screening process.
- Wearing official uniforms to identify themselves as legitimate law enforcement officers
- Parking marked squad cars with flashing lights in and around the DUI checkpoint area to clearly indicate its official nature
- Conducting the DUI checkpoint at an appropriate length of time and avoiding unnecessary delays when checking for signs of drunkenness among drivers
- Prioritizing safety and ensuring minimal interruption to the flow of traffic when pulling over a suspected drunk driving
- Sticking closely to the checkpoint plan and schedule pre-approved by supervising officers
Avoiding Arrest At Holiday DUI Checkpoints
While an experienced DUI lawyer will be able to question a holiday DUI checkpoint arrest, especially if local authorities failed to follow the rules that cover DUI stops closely, you would still be better off if you were not arrested at all.
One of the best things you can do is stay updated on the required public notifications by law enforcement authorities about the time and location of their planned holiday DUI checkpoint. That way, you will know which areas to avoid.
If you’ve realized too late that you are already heading right into a holiday DUI checkpoint, you can still avoid it by turning around.
However, you must make sure that you do so without violating any traffic laws and as safely as possible. If you make an unsafe or illegal U-turn, the police officers manning the checkpoint will likely notice what you did and promptly stop and cite you.
Then again, if the police still stop and detain you even if you did turn around legally and safely, you can trust your defense attorney to use the fact that they had no probable cause to do so.
Of course, the best way to avoid getting busted for drunk driving at a DUI checkpoint is to not drink at all during the holiday festivities. If avoiding alcohol is not possible, appoint a friend or relative who doesn’t drink as your designated driver. Or, you can use ride-hailing services to drive you to your home or hotel safely.
Getting arrested for a DUI can put a damper on an otherwise enjoyable holiday season. With law enforcement setting up more DUI checkpoints during the holidays, it would be in your best interest to avoid driving drunk or avoid drinking entirely.