Alabama law enforcement agencies are increasingly turning to DUI checkpoints as a way to curb impaired driving on the roads of Birmingham. While these stops can be helpful in ensuring the safety of everyone on the road, they also present the potential for violation of a person’s constitutional rights. DUI suspects have important rights – under both the Constitution and Alabama state law – which must be protected. It is important to know exactly what to do and say when an attorney cannot be present to protect your legal rights.
What You Should Do
As with any police interaction, it is important to be polite and non-confrontational when speaking with an officer. Police can ask for identification. Drivers should present identification without delay. Drivers should also be sure to follow simple directions that ensure the safety of everyone on scene. This might include where to proceed through a checkpoint, keeping your hands on the steering wheel so the officer knows you aren’t grabbing anything unexpectedly, or telling an officer about weapons in the vehicle.
What You Shouldn’t Do
Being polite and non-confrontational does not, however, mean that you have to say yes to every request that is made, or answer every question that is asked. DUI suspects have constitutional protections against self-incrimination. This means that they do not have to answer when an officer asks if they have been drinking. There are also constitutional protections against search and seizure, which means that drivers do not have to consent to a search of their vehicle. Law enforcement officers must obtain a warrant by convincing a judge that there is probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence of a crime. Drivers should not consent to such searches unless presented with a valid warrant.
Implied Consent to Alcohol Testing
If an officer has reason to suspect that a driver is impaired, the driver will be asked to submit to a blood or breath test. Alabama’s Implied Consent Law states that any driver using the roadways of Alabama is deemed to have consented to blood, breath, or urine tests for the purposes of determining the driver’s blood alcohol content. Any driver who refuses a request for any of these tests automatically has his or her driving privileges suspended for 90 days. Keep in mind that this law does not give police officers unlimited authority to demand alcohol tests from every driver who is stopped. If a driver refuses such a test, the officer must seek a search warrant from a judge. The officer must establish that there is probable cause to suspect the driver was impaired before such a search warrant is issued. Furthermore, if the driver refuses a test, he or she has the right to a hearing before driving privileges are suspended by the DMV. At this hearing, the driver can challenge whether the officer had probable cause to ask for the alcohol test in the first place. If it's decided that the officer did not, the driver’s privileges will not be suspended.
If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI, it is critical to contact an experienced Birmingham DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. The consequences of a DUI conviction can last for years to come.