Sobriety Checkpoints in Virginia: Are they legal?

What is a sobriety checkpoint in the State of Virginia?

Sobriety checkpoints are designed to help law enforcement identify drunk drivers. The U.S. Supreme Court has specified that DUI checkpoints are designed to protect and deter drivers from drinking and driving.

To make sure officers don’t use checkpoints only to apprehend offenders, federal DUI guidelines require law enforcement to announce the date and location of any planned roadblock to the public. As a result, drivers can often find out the date and location of roadblocks scheduled in your area. Most sobriety checkpoints are set up 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. on weekends and holidays. Sobriety checkpoints are typically set up in areas near bars and other locations where alcohol is served. 

Law enforcement officers are also required to provide a valid reason for setting up a DUI checkpoint. For example, valid reasons can include a high number of drunk driving arrests or drunk driving accidents in a particular area. There must also be a specific plan regarding which vehicles will be stopped during the roadblock (every other car, every fourth vehicle, etc.) and any change must be recorded.

It’s best to avoid sobriety checkpoints, but this may not always be possible. Therefore, it’s important to know the DUI guidelines that law enforcement officers must follow. This can make all the difference in appealing your arrest and fight to get your case dismissed in court.  

Are sobriety checkpoints legal in the State of Virginia?

Sobriety stops are legal under federal law, officers must follow a set number of DUI checkpoint rules and guidelines before a roadblock can legally be put in place. Sobriety checkpoints in the State of Virginia are legal but certain rules must be followed:

  • An important rule is that, before a Virginia sobriety checkpoint can be established, the location of the checkpoint must be announced to the general public.
  • Another important rule about sobriety checkpoints in Virginia is that the police cannot stop every car. Instead, vehicles must be stopped according to a mathematical formula such as every third vehicle, etc. Vehicles are not stopped according to how the motorist appears or according to how they drive.
  • Additionally, there are rules about how long each motorist may be detained at a Virginia sobriety checkpoint. As a result of these rules, an officer cannot ask you to step out of the car unless they suspect impairment.

It is important to note that if you do show signs of impairment at a Virginia sobriety checkpoint, such as glassy eyes, slurred speech, or the smell of alcohol on your breath, a police officer may detain you and administer a roadside sobriety test. In this case, the officer can detain and proceed as though you were pulled over under the suspicion of a Virginia DUI.

Typical field sobriety tests in the State of Virginia include walk in a straight line, touch each finger, one after the other, to thumb, count backwards or recite or sing the alphabet.

If you have been stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and charged with a Virginia DUI, you should consult with an experienced Virginia DUI defense attorney who can go over the specifics of your case and explain your legal options for fighting the DUI charges against you.

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