Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in West Virginia?

Many drivers in West Virginia are familiar with checkpoints law enforcement agencies set up on local roads to stop motorists and identify alleged offenders who operarte a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This crime is also known as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving with unlawful alcohol content (DUAC) in West Virginia. It is being asked if sobriety checkpoints are legal and what rights people have at these checkpoints. You will want to contact a Charleston DUI defense lawyer quickly.

The basic constitutionality of DUI checkpoints was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), as the court held that the state had a substantial government interest in stopping drunk driving and that brief questioning had a negligible impact on a driver’s Fourth Amendment right from unreasonable search. There is no specific state law governing DUI checkpoints in WV, but the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways does contain several other provisions relating to checkpoints concerning the issuance of citations at checkpoints and limits on their usage relating to seat belt violations.

How DUI Checkpoints Need to Operate in West Virginia

When it comes to setting up DUI checkpoints in West Virginia, police departments cannot just randomly decide to erect such checkpoints. Certain steps have to be taken before creating these checkpoints. A law enforcement agency will have to establish some kind of reason for setting up a checkpoint, usually being an increased number of DUI arrests within a certain area. Police departments must then publicize the date, time, and location of a checkpoint, so the public has notice of the DUI checkpoint.
Finally, a police department will need to gain supervisory approval for the checkpoint, and a supervisor will have to approve the need for a checkpoint, the proposed location for a checkpoint, and the process involved in the checkpoint. Beyond these initial standards, a checkpoint will also have to abide by certain requirements.

Some of the requirements will include:
● Cars must be stopped in a predictable pattern – Law enforcement cannot just
stop vehicles randomly but must instead have a set pattern for stops that abides by a neutral formula, meaning that police departments will agree in advance to stop
every other car or every third vehicle, some definitive pattern.

● The checkpoint site must be safe and identifiable – Police departments will need
to take proper precautions relating to public safety, such as ensuring a checkpoint
will be well lit, have appropriate warning signs, and there will be appropriate
signals. The officers working the checkpoints will have to be using obvious official
vehicles and be in uniform while conducting the checkpoint. Drivers must have
sufficient warning to know they are supposed to stop at the checkpoint. The
checkpoint should also exhibit its purpose, such as being for DUIs, as police officers
cannot use checkpoints to investigate other alleged violations randomly.

● Stops must be brief — Police officers should keep the flow of traffic moving, so
drivers should not be stopped for any longer than is necessary to gauge possible DUI
violations. There is no strict time limit in these cases, so determining whether a stop
was reasonable can vary depending on your case.

● A checkpoint must be effective – Police departments will have to supply evidence
after a checkpoint proving that their checkpoint served the public’s interest. In most
cases, law enforcement agencies satisfy this burden by supplying records of all DUI
arrests resulting from the checkpoint.

What You Should Do at DUI Checkpoints in West Virginia

When you pass through a DUI checkpoint in West Virginia, you need to understand that there is a chance that police officers may stop your vehicle. Should you be asked to stop, then simply try your best to remain calm. You should avoid any kind of confrontation with the police, so try to abide by their requests. In many cases, officers will simply ask you where you are coming from and whether you have had anything to drink. If you do admit to drinking, then there will be an increased chance of a police officer probably asking you to step out of your vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. You need to know that you have no obligation to agree to perform field sobriety tests under state law.

When it comes to a request for breathalyzer testing, West Virginia Code establishes that all drivers will be considered to have given their consent to a chemical test of their breath, blood, or urine to determine any presence of alcohol or drugs if they are arrested for suspected DUI. You can still decline such a test, but refusing to submit to a
breath test results in an automatic driver’s license suspension for six months.

When a police officer asks to search your motor vehicle, you should decline these requests. Any refusal to consent to a search of your automobile will not constitute a crime. If you decline to submit to a breath test, administrative license revocation (ALR) means you get 30 days from the date of a suspension to request an administrative hearing before the

Administrative Law Court’s Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings (OMVH). An arrest for DUI will result in even more serious charges, and you should quickly retain legal counsel for assistance in determining your rights and fighting the criminal charges.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Did you recently endure a stop at a DUI checkpoint in West Virginia that resulted in you being charged with DUI or any other criminal offense? You will want to quickly seek the help of Cary Law Office, PLLC in fighting the charges and trying to achieve either a reduction or dismissal of them.

Our firm knows that prosecutors still have to satisfy the burden of proving your guilt
beyond a reasonable doubt, and we can identify all of your possible defense options, which can include certain violations of your constitutional rights, errors in breathalyzer machinery, or otherwise inadequate evidence of impairment. Call us or contact us online to receive a free consultation so we can sit down with you and go over every aspect of your case in great detail and explore all of the possible legal defenses that might apply to your case.