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Know what to expect at an Arizona DUI checkpoint

Let's say you're driving on an Arizona roadway when, suddenly, you notice flashing police car lights up ahead. You first assume there must have been an accident but soon realize that doesn't seem to be the case. You notice a long line of cars and police officers approaching people's driver side windows. You've heard of DUI checkpoints in the past but have never encountered one, until now. You immediately grow nervous because you had a glass of wine an hour or so earlier while dining out with friends.  

Police roadblocks have been subject to much debate in Arizona and throughout the nation. The U.S. Supreme court ruled that DUI checkpoints do not violate our Fourth Amendment rights, which protect us from unreasonable search and seizure. Since the high court says it's okay for cops to set up roadblocks in the hope of catching drunk drivers in the act, the more you know about these checkpoints ahead of time, the better, as well as what to do if a problem arises

Probably not worth challenging the stop 

Many people have tried to challenge police roadblocks set up to check for DUI on grounds of personal rights violations, specifically that such stops are invasions of privacy. As it stands, the courts have consistently ruled that no violations have taken place.  

Police must follow accepted standards of procedure 

If you come upon a DUI roadblock, it's worth noting whether police have followed standard protocol regarding such stops. For instance, they have to publish notice that they intend to set up a checkpoint before doing so. They must use a standard, neutral formula for conducting checkpoint investigations. They must move you through the stop in a reasonable amount of time.

You don't have to go through the stop 

If you travel through the line and proceed through a DUI checkpoint, Arizona law requires you to cooperate with standard procedure. However, there is no law that prohibits you from choosing not to go through the line. In other words, you are free to turn around and travel by way of another route that doesn't include the roadblock. 

Reasonable suspicion outside a DUI checkpoint 

If you do decide not to travel through a police roadblock, you risk an officer pulling you over if he or she claims that you made an illegal turn or drove in an erratic manner, etc. Therefore, it's critical to make sure you adhere to all traffic regulations if you turn around to avoid a DUI checkpoint.  

Can police detain you? 

Is it possible to face DUI charges simply because you had a glass of wine with your meal? The answer is yes, if the officer who questions you at a roadblock issues a preliminary alcohol screening and your breath tests positive for alcohol. If you fail a field sobriety test (which many sober people have done), things may get a lot worse before they get better. If you know where to seek support, you may be able to mitigate your circumstances. 

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