Know Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint in Washington State

A DUI checkpoint is where police pull people over randomly rather than based on individual, observed driver activity. If police violate someone’s rights at a DUI checkpoint in Washington, the court may throw out the DUI charge. But it depends on the circumstances leading to the stop and what happened afterward. In other words, if the police pulled someone over because of swerving or a traffic law violation, the encounter may be valid. But the stop may be unconstitutional if the cops pulled someone over without reasonable suspicion of illegal activity. 

At Veitch Ault Defense, we understand the lengths some police officers will go to write someone up for a DUI or other offense. Because of our tireless advocacy, hundreds of illegal breathalyzer test results have been thrown out. Our King County DUI attorney has decades of experience fighting against government overreach. We proudly champion the rights of those accused of crimes throughout Washington. 

Are Sobriety Checkpoints Unconstitutional in Washington?

Yes. The Washington Supreme Court decided that random sobriety checkpoints are unconstitutional based on the United States and Washington State constitutions. Police can stop vehicles based on driver activity, such as swerving, failing to yield, or not using turn signals. But if the cops don’t have a reason for pulling someone over, the traffic stop may be illegal. 

Sobriety checkpoints don’t have safeguards in place to protect people against intrusive government action. Instead, the police pull people over randomly. Because the stops usually aren’t based on individualized driver activity, the Washington Supreme Court said they are unconstitutional. That said, if police have valid reasons to pull someone over, the stop may be legal. This might be true for the individual driver even if it occurs at an unconstitutional DUI checkpoint. 

What Are Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint?

It’s usually illegal for police to set up random DUI checkpoints in Washington. That said, if the police have reasonable suspicion before they pull you over, the stop may be legal. For example, if you are speeding or don’t use your turn signal, this may give the cop a valid reason to pull you over. In that case, you have the rights you normally would under a regular police stop. For example, if the police arrest you, you have the right to remain silent and to talk to an attorney. You may also have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle, but this depends on the specific circumstances. If the police do not have cause to search closed containers (like backpacks) that are out of reach to you, they may not have the authority to explore these locations without your consent or a warrant. If you’re not sure if the police are acting within their authority, it may be best to assert your rights without actively trying to stop the police. If possible, contact your trusted attorney to help guide you through the legal process after getting a DUI in Washington State

Do You Have to Answer Every Question by Police at DUI Roadblocks?

If police have a valid reason to pull you over, Washington law requires you to provide basic information to them. For example, you must identify who you are and give them a copy of your insurance card, license, and registration information (if requested). But passengers do not have to answer questions or identify themselves unless the police reasonably believe they have committed a crime. You may not have to answer questions that fall outside the realm of standard traffic stop information. But it depends on the circumstances (such as whether you’re under arrest). 

If police pull you over for a DUI, it may be time to talk to a lawyer. Washington DUI attorneys understand this nuanced area of the law and can help you understand your rights. They can also tell you if the police overstepped by searching your car illegally or pulling you over at random. 

What Are the Consequences of Refusing to Cooperate With a DUI Checkpoint?

If you are at a DUI checkpoint, a refusal to cooperate may not be in your best interest. Random DUI checkpoints are illegal, but if the cop has reasonable suspicion before they pull you over, the stop may be valid. Without knowing whether they have this, you might want to talk to an attorney before you refuse to cooperate. If you guess wrong and refuse a lawful breathalyzer, you may face an automatic suspension of your license. If you have prior DUIs on your record, the consequences may be higher than this. That said, you always have the right to assert your rights throughout the encounter. 

What to Do at a DUI Checkpoint 

Routine sobriety checkpoints are illegal in Washington for both in-state and out-of-state drivers. But sometimes, police engage in this practice anyway. If you see a sobriety checkpoint up ahead and it’s possible to turn around safely, you are free to do so. Just make sure you take extra care to follow all traffic laws when doing so. If you don’t, the police may use this as a basis to pull you over. 

If the police do pull you over, it may be best to cooperate to the best of your ability. For example, you should give the police your license and insurance information when requested. If the police smell alcohol on you, they may have the authority to make you take a breathalyzer. As discussed above, it may be wise to submit to the test to avoid consequences, like having your license suspended. If you think the police overstepped, it may be time to talk to a seasoned attorney who can assist you. 

The DUI Attorneys at Veitch Ault Defense Can Help

DUI checkpoints or sobriety roadblocks are illegal in Washington, but that doesn’t mean police won’t try to use these tactics to trap people. You have the right to go about your daily life without unjustified interference from the government. If you were arrested for a DUI because of a sobriety checkpoint, our sophisticated legal team may be able to help. 

Veitch Ault Defense has nearly 20 years of hands-on experience fighting the good fight on behalf of people arrested for DUIs, reckless driving, vehicular homicide, and other charges. Robert Ault is a leader in the field of criminal defense, particularly when it comes to DUIs. Throughout his robust career, he has successfully defended over 1,000 DUI cases. If you were arrested for a DUI in Washington, contact us today by calling 425-312-6753 to set up a consultation. 


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