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  • Can You Turn around before a DUI Checkpoint?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    Typically, turning around before a DUI checkpoint, or turning down a different street to avoid the stop, is not illegal. However, it all depends on where you begin your turnaround, whether you are breaking traffic laws at the time, and whether you are avoiding that checkpoint because you are intoxicated or not.

    If you are on your way home and notice traffic starting to backup at a DUI checkpoint, you might find yourself tempted to turn around. Whether you had a few drinks or you’re completely sober, it is normal to find yourself anxious at a DUI checkpoint. If you have the opportunity to turn around, you may be okay to do so. However, you must be cautious when and how you turn around – otherwise, you could be breaking the law.

    When You Can Legally Turn Around

    You can turn around to avoid a DUI checkpoint, as long as you do so legally. To begin with, you should not already be in line at the DUI checkpoint. Whether you are in a coned off zone or not, being in line creates an automatic red flag. While you might not be breaking the law turning around, if you are in that line of vehicles and officers see you turn around, they may consider that probable cause or look for other signs you may be intoxicated, to stop you and conduct a field sobriety test.

    Instead, it is best to avoid checkpoints altogether. These are posted online and announced days in advance. So it is better to avoid those checkpoints entirely, and then you do not have to worry about any repercussions for turning around just before one.

    If you were not aware of an upcoming checkpoint but now you find yourself moving toward one, here is what you need to do to make sure that you can legally turn around without finding yourself being subjected to a field sobriety test anyway.

    • Avoid the DUI checkpoint as early as possible. You might see warning signs out that there is a mandatory stop ahead. At this point, turn down a side street so that you can avoid stopping in the checkpoint.
    • Turn around where you are legally permitted to do so. If you did not see any signs, and then realize that you are approaching a DUI checkpoint, you need to make a legal turnaround. If you are on a roadway with a double yellow line, you cannot legally make a U-turn there and go back the other way – doing so could result in law enforcement stopping you regardless.

    Also, keep your eyes out. Typically, there are police officers parked a few blocks outside of the checkpoint looking for vehicles that avoid those stops.

    When Could Law Enforcement Stop You for Turning Around?

    You might find yourself pulled over even if you obeyed traffic laws when turning around – or when you did not obey them. Therefore, it is important to understand those situations that may result in you being stopped when you try to turn around before a DUI checkpoint.

    Disobeying Traffic Laws

    The most common reason law enforcement stops a vehicle for turning around before a checkpoint is when they disobey traffic laws. You can be stopped for these whether you are avoiding a DUI checkpoint or not, such as:

    • Driving through premade barricades for the DUI checkpoint to turn around;
    • Not using a turn signal before turning;
    • Ignoring a traffic signal or light;
    • Turning around on a street with signs posted that there are no U-turns allowed;
    • Crossing over a double yellow line or single white line;
    • Driving over curbing and sidewalks to turn around;
    • Driving the wrong way down the street; or
    • Driving over a center divider.

    In these cases, law enforcement will automatically have probable cause to stop your vehicle. If they also suspect that you are under the influence, they may be able to conduct a field sobriety test as well.

    Your Rights When Going through a DUI Checkpoint

    It is best to just go through the checkpoint rather than risk avoiding it. Again, if you can avoid it by turning down a side street or making a legal U-turn, then it is your right to do so.

    You have rights, even in a DUI stop point. Law enforcement has strict procedures that they must follow when conducting these checkpoints, and failure to do so could result in your case being dismissed.

    Just some of the rules that law enforcement must abide by include:

    • Having a system in place for choosing vehicles they will stop and test at the checkpoint. Law enforcement does not test every single vehicle. Instead, they must have pre-determined rules for which vehicles they will check, such as every third vehicle. Then, they will stop that driver, ask them where they are coming from/where they are going, if they have had any drinks, and look for any signs of intoxication. If they believe that the driver is intoxicated, they may have them pull over to do a field sobriety test.
    • Not choosing anyone based on their race or other discriminatory factors. Law enforcement must be extra careful when they are picking drivers to test. That is why they must have a predetermined stopping system. It will avoid any accusations that they were profiling while they made their stops.

    Were You Arrested at a DUI Checkpoint? Speak with an Attorney Immediately

    Arrests made at DUI checkpoints are not the same as those done on the street at random. Law enforcement does not have to have the same probable cause as they would stopping you outside of a checkpoint.

    While the checkpoint is legal in the state, that doesn’t mean every arrest from these checkpoints results in a conviction. Therefore, your best chance at avoiding the long-term consequences of a criminal record is to contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can look at the facts surrounding your DUI arrest, look to see if law enforcement violated any procedures when conducting a DUI checkpoint, and look for the best possible outcome.

    To get started, contact a defense attorney from New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today. Call our team now to schedule a case evaluation or reach out to us online with your questions.