DUI Checkpoints: Can Police Search Your Car?

If you or someone you love finds yourself as a checkpoint – which are commonly set up during holidays – make sure you know your rights when it comes to police searches!

Unlawful Vehicle Searches

Knowing your rights at a DUI checkpoint can make the difference between a DUI arrest and being sent on your way. Your Fourth Amendment rights entitle you to freedom from unlawful searches and seizures, including vehicle searches during a DUI / sobriety checkpoint. Attorney Anthony Knowles is a seasoned Phoenix DUI attorney and a former police officer. Below, he explains whether police can search your car at a DUI checkpoint.

In over 15 years in the Arizona criminal justice system, Attorney Knowles has observed many police officers fudge the rules, overstepping Fourth Amendment rights to get the evidence to support a DUI arrest. There are certain things police officers can and cannot do at a DUI checkpoint. One thing is always true – police cannot search your vehicle at a checkpoint unless they have probable cause or your consent.

  • Probable Cause – Police must have enough evidence to reasonably believe that you committed a crime. Often, police will use drug dogs if they suspect drugs are in your vehicle. When a drug dog barks, that counts as the probable cause needed to search your vehicle.
  • Consent to a Search – Police can use manipulative language to coerce you into giving your consent to a search. They might say something like "You don't have anything to hide, do you? Do you mind if I take a look inside your vehicle?" but you do not have to give your consent.

Make it clear to the officer that you do not consent to searches, but do so in a respectful manner. Police can in some cases arrest an individual for resisting because of the way in which they refused a search. It is a good idea to only speak when spoken to, and when denying your consent to a search, make it clear that you are not resisting, but that you are simply exercising your Fourth Amendment right to deny your consent to a search.

In sum, can police search your car at a DUI checkpoint? Yes, but only if they have probable cause that you committed a crime or if you give your direct consent. If you were stopped at a DUI checkpoint and arrested for drunk or drugged driving, contact a Phoenix DUI defense lawyer at Knowles Law Firm, PLC today.

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