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What happens at a DWI checkpoint?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | DUI

Many people accused of driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses get arrested due to targeted enforcement. A police officer responds to a call after a collision or notices questionable conduct in traffic that causes them to suspect an individual of intoxication. They may request a chemical test as a way of validating that concern.

Most DWI arrests occur on a case-by-case basis, but sometimes people get arrested during large-scale enforcement efforts. DWI checkpoints, sometimes called sobriety roadblocks, are a popular law enforcement tool. They allow police officers to screen dozens of people for intoxication at the wheel in a matter of hours.

What can drivers in Missouri expect if they encounter a sobriety checkpoint?

Minimal inconvenience

The reason that police departments can legally perform sobriety checkpoints is that they should only generate a minimal degree of inconvenience and delay for the typical motorist. Police officers engage in cursory initial screenings that should only delay the average driver by a few minutes.

Most motorists passing through a checkpoint simply roll down their window, speak with the police officer briefly and then go on with their day. Only in scenarios where there are indicators of chemical intoxication can police officers delay someone by asking them to pull aside for enhanced screening.

Single-minded officers

While police officers should only conduct a brief screening of each driver passing through the checkpoint, they may struggle with a confirmation bias during that process. The human brain tends to focus on details that support someone’s current beliefs or perception of a situation. Confirmation bias can be a serious concern at DWI checkpoints. Please officers may ignore perfectly reasonable explanations for someone’s conduct because they expect to find proof of intoxication.

What can drivers do as they approach a checkpoint?

Realizing that police officers conducting a checkpoint are eager to arrest as many people as possible can make people feel very anxious about driving through a DWI roadblock. People who understand their rights could theoretically avoid a roadblock. Drivers can potentially change their course to avoid a roadblock. They can also potentially leverage mistakes made at the checkpoint as part of their overall defense strategy. Just because police officers arrested someone at a DWI checkpoint does not mean that the driver was drunk or violated the law.

Those arrested for a DWI offense may have multiple ways of proving they didn’t drive drunk. Defending assertively against checkpoint charges could help someone avoid unfair consequences caused by an officer’s misunderstanding of a situation.