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What should drivers do at a Maryland DUI checkpoint?

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2023 | DUI/DWI

Maryland police officers are often eager to locate and arrest those who are under the influence of alcohol at the wheel. Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are some of the most common criminal allegations filed against individuals in Maryland, and the state can seek to build its case via a number of different strategies.

Oftentimes, people get arrested for impairment at the wheel after a car crash or during targeted enforcement efforts that lead to a traffic stop. However, some people encounter mass enforcement efforts, such as DUI checkpoints. Also known as sobriety roadblocks, DUI checkpoints involve effectively shutting down traffic on a specific road for a set amount of time to screen people for intoxication.

What can motorists expect when they approach a DUI roadblock in Maryland?

They have the right to (lawfully) avoid the roadblock

Drivers who see signs of a DUI roadblock ahead could potentially avoid passing directly through it. Provided there are no signs indicating otherwise, it is legally possible to complete a U-turn on public roads in Maryland. Drivers could also turn down a side road in an attempt to reroute and bypass the DUI checkpoint. If someone cannot complete a lawful traffic maneuver to avoid a DUI checkpoint, then they may have no choice but to proceed through it.

What happens at the checkpoint?

Maryland DUI checkpoints are legal provided that police officers abide by several rules. One of those rules is that they cannot unlawfully detain someone for an unreasonable amount of time. They only have the right to briefly interact with each driver. They will, therefore, typically approach a vehicle and ask a few questions. Some drivers are asked to pull aside for enhanced screening, while others will be free to go within a minute or two. Officers may ask if someone has had anything to drink and then evaluate their response.

Those selected for enhanced screening will typically need to perform field sobriety tests and a chemical breath test. Officers cannot demand testing from every driver who passes through the checkpoint or detain people without probable cause. They are also still subject to limitations regarding vehicle searches.

Drivers can protect themselves

Encountering a checkpoint often makes someone feel as though they will have no means of defending themselves later. They can protect themselves from unfounded allegations by being careful not to implicate themselves and by knowing their rights when interacting with police officers.