If you have received a driving under the influence charge after being stopped by police at a Fairfax DUI checkpoint, our experienced Fairfax DUI lawyers can help.
Several state and federal court cases govern how Fairfax DUI checkpoints must be conducted, and if police actions did not follow proper procedure, your DUI checkpoint attorney may be able to get the charges against you dismissed or reduced.
There are a number of circumstances in which your Fairfax DUI checkpoint lawyer may determine that DUI charges against you were improper. For instance, if you submitted to a breathalyzer or an alcohol content blood test, your lawyer can investigate whether the equipment was working properly during your test or whether your blood sample could have been contaminated or mishandled.
In order for your attorney to have the best opportunity to fully investigate the evidence against you and build a solid defense on your behalf, he or she will need to begin working on your case as soon as possible.
Virginia Code 18.2-268.2 maintains that drivers give their implied consent to breathalyzer or blood alcohol testing they are arrested for driving under the influence. This does not, however, excuse police officers who do not follow proper procedure.
If the officers conducting the checkpoint were stopping every car, for instance, your Fairfax DUI checkpoint lawyer may determine that your rights have been violated and that, as a result, the charges against you were improper.
DUI checkpoints are common in Virginia, with the Commonwealth’s DUI Checkpoint Strike Force Campaign conducting hundreds of checkpoints across the state.
With its genesis in the early 2000s, Checkpoint Strikeforce is a year-long program that currently takes place across multiple jurisdictions along the East Coast, including Maryland, Virginia, The District of Columbia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. It involves at least one checkpoint per week (usually staged in areas where people are known or expected to consume alcohol).
The campaign has resulted in increased DUI awareness, stopping over 2.9 million vehicles within the first five years of the program and as many as 800,000 drivers in a single year (2006-2007). Additionally, the program now stops over 500,000 drivers annually, predictably resulting in a large number of DUI arrests.
DUI checkpoints in Fairfax are required to be published ahead of notice according to case law, and many police departments announce the planned checkpoints in the local newspaper, online on the police force website, or even through the use of social media.
Police are also required to use a random method of selection in stopping vehicles unless they have a reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired. They may stop every 9th car, for example, but they cannot stop and question each and every driver who passes through the Fairfax DUI checkpoints.
If a driver behaves erratically during the checkpoint or breaks the law in some way, then the police would be within their rights to stop the vehicle, regardless of whether the car was one of those randomly selected for checkpoint questioning. For example, if a driver approaches the checkpoint and then makes an illegal U-turn in order to avoid the stop, police may have the proper justification for pulling that car over.
In the same vein, police do not have blanket authority to question drivers extensively, search their vehicles, or require everyone stopped at random to exit their car and submit to field sobriety testing. Only if an officer detects signs of possible intoxication or impairment can further questioning and testing take place.
Police must have a reasonable suspicion – such as the smell of alcohol on a driver’s breath, slurred speech, open containers in the car or dilated pupils – before pursuing the type of in-depth testing that might occur during a standard DUI stop prompted by erratic driving, for instance.
If you have been charged with a DUI after being stopped at a Fairfax DUI checkpoint, your attorney can analyze the circumstances that led to the charges against you and investigate whether police acted within their authority during the checkpoint.
States have a valid interest in protecting all members of the public from intoxicated drivers and dangerous road conditions. However, these concerns do not justify police overreach or trampling of drivers’ rights.
Only your experienced Fairfax DUI checkpoints lawyer can determine whether your rights were properly protected during the checkpoint.
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