What to Do at a Wake County DWI Checkpoint

NC DWI Checkpoints

Police officers often set up DWI roadblocks this time of year, as Labor Day Weekend is considered a high drinking-and-driving holiday. If you have encountered, or anticipate encountering, a DWI checkpoint in North Carolina, you may be curious about your rights at sobriety roadblocks.

Checkpoint Refusal

First, you have a limited right to avoid a checkpoint if you approach one. If you turn around, law enforcement can follow you, and if you commit a traffic violation, officers may detain you. Most DWI checkpoints have several chase cars specifically for this purpose.

Your Legal Rights at a Checkpoint

Next, when you reach the checkpoint, you must produce certain documents, such as a drivers’ license and proof of insurance. However, you have a right not to interact with law enforcement officers. You are not even required to roll down your window.

Finally, you have the absolute right to refuse a breath test and any field sobriety tests (FSTs). If you refuse to do these things, law enforcement officers will take that refusal as an admission of guilt, and arrest you. However, if the encounter reached this point, an arrest was probably inevitable no matter what you did, or did not, do. Additionally, your refusal to perform the field sobriety tests cannot be used against you in court.

The Rights of Law Enforcement

Police officers also have rights at DWI checkpoints. For example, they may not need search warrants to examine your vehicle for controlled substances. So, if an officer sees drugs in your car, including prescription drugs and certain over-the-counter medicines, your vehicle can be searched without a warrant.

Additionally, law enforcement officers do not need reasonable suspicion to detain motorists at checkpoints. However, if they suspect another crime has been committed, like auto theft, they must have reasonable suspicion to investigate it at a DWI checkpoint.

Finally, officers have the right to briefly detain motorists. If they develop reasonable suspicion of intoxication, they may direct the motorist to an inspection area and conduct a further investigation.

What to Do at a DWI Checkpoint

So much for some basic rules about a North Carolina DWI checkpoint. Now, here are some proper steps to consider when you encounter one:

  • If the DWI checkpoint happens at night, and it usually does, turn on your car’s dome light and place your hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2.
  • Have the aforementioned documents ready for inspection. Do not dig around for them when you are close to the officer, because many officers consider such moves threatening.
  • Even if you refuse to interact, always be cooperative and respectful towards the stopping officer. Remember that the officer is armed, and an angry confrontation could end very badly.
  • If the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, follow those orders.

In sum, remain calm and collected at DWI checkpoints. In response to questions, only provide simple, clear, and direct answers to law enforcement.

If the encounter goes a step further and you are arrested, exercise your right to remain silent. At that point, there is no way to talk yourself out of the situation. Your statements simply give prosecutors more evidence to use against you in court. Instead, let an experienced Raleigh DWI lawyer do the arguing for you. Many times, these arguments can get the charges significantly reduced or dismissed altogether.

Speak With a Criminal Defense Attorney

For more information about the criminal law process, contact Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law, and schedule a consultation with our Raleigh DWI lawyers today. Fill out the form to the right or call us at (919) 887-8040.