It’s late on a Saturday night and you’re driving home after being out to dinner with some friends. You had a glass of wine, but definitely didn’t overindulge – you don’t even feel the effects of the alcohol. As you turn a corner, you’re met with what looks like dozens of flashing lights up ahead. Police are everywhere and cars are lined up as the officers go from car to car, speaking with each driver.
Suddenly realized that you’ve driven up on a DUI checkpoint.
That single glass of wine at dinner suddenly doesn’t seem like such a great idea as anxiety grips you and you immediately start to sweat. What do you do? What can you do?
Here’s what you need to know about DUI checkpoints in Nevada.
Does Nevada have DUI Checkpoints?
Nevada does utilize DUI checkpoints throughout the state, including Las Vegas and the surrounding area. They can occur at any time on any day, but in highly populated cities, specifically those that have a strong tourist draw like Las Vegas, DUI checkpoints are more commonly found on the weekends and evenings.
Often local or state law enforcement will publicize the location of a checkpoint that they will be setting up. However, there is no statute that requires them to notify the public of an upcoming DUI checkpoint so even those that are unpublicized are still legal.
How do Checkpoints Work?
A DUI checkpoint is a method that law enforcement uses to find drunk drivers. They set up a roadblock and stop all traffic that passes through, sometimes inspecting every driver and other times choosing random drivers using a tactic that is non-discriminatory and fair.
When the driver approaches the checkpoint, the officer may stop them and ask some questions, or they may wave the driver through and let them go on their way. If the officer stops a driver, he or she may look at the driver’s license, proof of insurance, and registration and ask some questions about their driving.
If the officer has probable cause to believe that the driver is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or has a BAC that is over the legal limit, they may detain him or her. At that point, the officer may detain the driver and conduct a formal DUI investigation that can include a field sobriety test, breathalyzer test, or blood test as well as a search of the vehicle and person.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
As long as the police officers conduct the checkpoint in a lawful and non-discriminatory manner, DUI checkpoints are indeed legal. However, it is against the law for officers to single out for investigation specific people based on sex or race. They also are not allowed to detain someone for longer than necessary to determine if the person is driving under the influence.
The types of searches conducted at a legal DUI checkpoint without a warrant or probable cause since it falls under the probable cause exception.
Common Questions About Approaching a DUI Checkpoint
- Can you refuse a DUI checkpoint in Nevada? Somewhat. While you are required to provide all documentation the officer requests, you do not have to answer any of their questions or submit to any sobriety tests. That is your 5th Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.
- Is it legal to turn around before a DUI checkpoint? Yes. It is legal to avoid a DUI checkpoint by safely making a legal down a side street or making a legal U-turn before you get to it. It is also illegal for law enforcement to pull you over because you legally avoided a checkpoint unless you made an illegal U-turn or broke some other law while avoiding the checkpoint, or if the officer has reasonable suspicion that you may be driving under the influence.
- Can you drive around a DUI checkpoint? No. You can turn around or pull onto a side street before you get to the checkpoint, but you cannot drive around it. This is mainly because it would cause you to violate traffic laws such as driving on the shoulder or operating your vehicle in an unsafe manner.
- Can you drive through a DUI Checkpoint? No. If you fail to stop at a DUI checkpoint and no one is hurt and/or there is less than $1,000 of property damage, then it is a gross misdemeanor which can mean up to 1 year in the county jail, a fine of $2,000, or both. If someone is injured and/or there is more than $1,000 of property damage, it is a Class B felony which means up to 6 years in Prison.
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