When a Connecticut police officer motions you into a weekend checkpoint queue, try not to panic. It’s understandable why you might become anxious even if you haven’t had a drop of alcohol.
Police officers get into your personal space. They sniff you for the scent of alcohol. They stare into your eyes and examine your car for open containers. While police officers refer to these inconvenient stops as “sobriety checkpoints,” drunk driver entrapment is their actual goal.
When you enter drunk driving checkpoints in Connecticut, cooperation is your most important survival tool. If you follow the officer’s instructions and you show no signs of alcohol consumption, he will usually send you on your way. Here are a few additional tips to consider.
Nobody wants to arrest you
If you haven’t been drinking, you have no reason to panic. While checkpoint officers will stop you if they find that you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, arrests are not their primary goal.
Protesting won’t help, checkpoints are legal
Checkpoints seem to ignore probable cause rights and 4th Amendment prohibitions against illegal searches and seizures. You can waste a lot of time and money arguing these defenses, but the courts resolved them long ago.
The Connecticut Appellate Court ruled on checkpoint constitutionality in the 1996 case, Connecticut v. Boisvert. Before that, the US Supreme Court decided the issue in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz. Both courts agreed that checkpoints were constitutional.
Checkpoints must follow the rules
The US Supreme Court ruled that checkpoints are legal. Still, the majority of justices also agreed that they probably do violate a driver’s legal rights. They considered it a tradeoff for the lives saved but insisted that law enforcement agencies follow appropriate guidelines. Connecticut checkpoints meet these standards:
- Sites must recognize motorists’ and officers’ safety.
- The location must have a history of accidents.
- It must be on a route that potential violaters travel.
- The checkpoint must be marked.
- A senior officer must approve the checkpoint site selection.
- Officers must remain neutral in deciding who to stop.
It’s pro-active policing
Sobriety checkpoints provide a hands-on, in-your-face way for police officers to challenge drunk driving outcomes and save lives. In 2019, the state’s Crash Data Repository recorded 2,719 DUI crashes resulting in 1,026 injuries and 53 fatalities. Checkpoints give officers a useful tool for reducing the harm drunk drivers cause on Connecticut roads.
They’re highly visible for a reason
If drunk driving checkpoints in Connecticut come across as scary and intimidating, that’s because they plan them that way. Checkpoints are an element of High Visibility Enforcement. Police officers hang out in groups. Sometimes two or more police forces combine to establish a more formidable presence. Checkpoints incorporate police vehicles and flashing lights. Their high visibility is a warning that if you drink and drive, they will catch you.
Checkpoints are expensive but effective
Setting up drunk driving checkpoints in Connecticut is usually time-consuming and costly. Authorities implement them anyway because checkpoints help keep drunk drivers off the road. A CDC study found these encouraging results in states that set up regular checkpoints:
- Alcohol-related injury and property damage crashes decreased by 20%.
- Checkpoints reduced alcohol-related crashes by 17%
- Seven states showed an 11 to 20% decreases in alcohol-related accident fatalities.
You can avoid them if you want to
The whole point of high visibility law enforcement is that it allows people to avoid it. That’s why law enforcement authorities publicize checkpoint locations, dates, and times. If a drunk driver wants to avoid a police encounter, they can look up the scheduled checkpoints and avoid the situations or stay home.
Contact the Sadler Law Group
If you encountered a problem during a Connecticut sobriety checkpoint, you must take immediate steps to protect your legal rights. Contact the Sadler Law Group at (203) 951-1360 or complete our Contact Form, and we will schedule a consultation.