Why are checkpoints even legal? Don't officers need a reason to stop drivers and assess them for being under the influence?

Some checkpoints are legal while others are set up improperly. Drawing the distinction has required several state and federal lawsuits.

Regardless, you must understand that, yes, you can be pulled over at checkpoint. Police can conduct sobriety checkpoints because they are working to protect the

What are police checking for?

They are looking for signs that people are operating vehicles while impaired (OVI) by alcohol or drugs. Keep scrolling to learn what officers consider signs of intoxication and impairment.

Can police set up checkpoints anywhere and anytime they want?

No. State laws require public notice of when and where DUI checkpoints will operate in Columbus and elsewhere. Those announcements must come a week before checkpoints get set up, and the information often appears in local newspapers and on the web.

Do I have to pass through a DUI/OVI checkpoint?

No. You can plan a route that takes you around the police cordon. Also, if you spot a checkpoint you didn't know to expect, you can turn around.

You cannot, however, commit any traffic violations. Backing up into traffic, making an illegal U-turn, or attempting to keep driving after an officer asks you to stop will get you ticketed, at best. More likely than not, if you drive negligently or recklessly in the vicinity of a sobriety checkpoint, officers will suspect you are intoxicated and impaired.

What do I have to do after entering a checkpoint?

Follow the officers' instructions. You may get waved through, or you may be asked to stop, roll down your window, and show your license and registration. In either scenario, it helps to remain calm and courteous. Acting nervous or complaining about inconvenience may lead an officer to think you have been drinking or using drugs. Whatever you do, do not try to start a debate over the constitutionality of random OVI stops.

What behaviors and situations raise officers' suspicions regarding OVI?

In addition to driving badly or acting belligerently, police watch and listen for glassy eyes, slurred speech, lack of mental focus, alcohol containers, drug paraphernalia, and lack of physical coordination. Being slow and awkward while fishing your paperwork out of your glovebox can raise red flags at a checkpoint, as can being hesitant when answering direct questions like your name and address.

Officers will also be sniffing for the scent of alcohol and marijuana smoke. Even if those odors emanate from passengers, an officer may follow his nose in asking you to step out of your car for further questioning.

If asked, should I do field sobriety tests?

Maybe. You have the right to say no to letting an officer assess your balance and ability to follow directions. If you are completely sober, however, performing well on the tests may alleviate any suspicions regarding OVI. You will need to weigh the following factors before agreeing to or declining requests to do the test:

  • Saying no can increase suspicion that you have been drinking and/or using drugs.
  • Failing is easy if you have physical disabilities or are suffering from an illness.
  • The results of field sobriety tests can be used against you in court even though they are not considered scientifically valid.

That last consideration points toward refusing to take the tests if you have been drinking or taking drugs. You do not have to volunteer information that incriminates you.

What field sobriety tests would I have to take?

The three most commonly used field sobriety tests are an eye movement assessment, a walk-and-turn test, and a one-leg stand test. Campbell Law's Columbus, Ohio, DUI traffic stop attorneys discuss each of these in greater detail here.

You may also be asked to blow into a portable alcohol breath test device. Even though the reading on the device cannot be submitted as evidence, an officer at an OVI checkpoint can take the number into consideration when deciding to make an arrest. A blood alcohol content (BAC) reading of .08 automatically triggers an arrest for an adult. Commercial truck drivers (.04) and drivers younger than 21 (.02) have lower legal limits for BAC in Ohio.

If I agree to do the field sobriety tests, should I discuss anything with the officer?

Make sure the officer knows about any conditions that affect your vision, balance, hearing, and muscle strength. Also tell the officer if you are taking prescription medications that produce any of the same effects as being drunk or stoned. That information should effect how the officer, a prosecutor, and your own criminal defense attorney interprets your performance.

I got arrested at an OVI checkpoint. What happens next?

Each case will be different, but an Ohio drunk or drugged driving arrest generally leads to the following consequences:

  • Towing and impoundment of the vehicle involved
  • Breath, urine, and blood testing for alcohol and drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana
  • Detainment until the following day or longer if you are injured, considered extremely intoxicated, or on parole or under indictment for another offense
  • A preliminary hearing before a judge within five days of arrest

You may also have your driver's license immediately suspended, especially if you refuse to provide breath, urine, and blood samples or have a history of OVI convictions.

When should I contact a Columbus DUI lawyer following an arrest at a checkpoint?

As soon as possible. An experienced Columbus criminal defense attorney who has helped many OVI suspects will work on your behalf to ensure every aspect of how the checkpoint, stop, questioning, and field sobriety testing was carried out properly. Having your own dedicated legal counsel and representation from the very beginning of an OVI arrest and prosecution process can help you put together the best defense and keep your license while awaiting trial.

Campbell Law knows how to handle drunk and drugged cases. As a former prosecutor, April Campbell knows exactly how the system should operate, and when it fails. She can quickly spot the points at which the system breaks down.

Do not let unfounded suspicions, poorly conducted sobriety tests, or a badly run OVI checkpoint ruin your life. Contact Campbell Law today to request a free consultation.