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What if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint over the holidays?

Thanksgiving is a time when most Virginia residents spend time with their loved ones celebrating the good fortunes they have in life. Part of the celebration is good food and, for many, an alcoholic beverage or two. Thanksgiving is also one of the busiest travel times of the year. It may be for these reasons that in Virginia, DUI checkpoints are set up around holidays when people may be drinking.

How can the police pull a motorist over if there is no reasonable suspicion to believe the motorist is breaking the law? Doesn’t this type of DUI stop violate the motorist’s 4th Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure?

Actually, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on this issue and determined that any intrusion into a motorist’s privacy at a sobriety checkpoint is outweighed by public safety concerns, since states have a compelling interest in preventing drunk driving. Thus, sobriety checkpoints are considered reasonable under the circumstances.

That being said, states are granted the right to determine whether or not to allow sobriety checkpoints. While some states deemed these checkpoints go against state law, Virginia is not one of them. Sobriety checkpoints do not violate Virginia’s constitution, and can occur weekly.

So, while in general police need reasonable suspicion that a motorist is intoxicated to detain that motorist on suspicion of drunk driving, police in Virginia can pull over motorists at DUI checkpoints. If a motorist is detained at a sobriety checkpoint and feels their rights were violated leading to criminal charges, they may want to get more information about their rights and options under the law.

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