As is the case with most states, police in and around Harrisonburg, Virginia, are allowed to use what are often referred to as sobriety checkpoints in order to detain and then prosecute suspected drunk drivers.
For those who have not seen one, a sobriety checkpoint involves a group of police setting up what amounts to a roadblock at a highway or other road where they expect they will catch some drunk drivers. They then stop vehicles and engage various drivers who pass through the checkpoint in a short encounter.
If during their contact they observe evidence of drunk driving, they may investigate further and, depending on the outcome of that investigation, may wind up arresting the driver for DUI. This is the case even if the driver was not actually violating any traffic laws or engaging in suspicious driving.
The Supreme Court has held that police can use sobriety checkpoints without running afoul of one’s Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches. Like most of the states, Virginia has not taken any steps to prohibit checkpoints under state law and has agreed that police can use them.
However, it is important for those who happen to get stopped at a checkpoint to remember that the police do not have unlimited power at these sorts of stops. For instance, while they may ask a driver to roll down her window briefly, long enough to show paperwork for example, they may not, without first finding additional evidence, do things like order someone out of her car, search the trunk, or demand a certified chemical test.
Going over one’s legal rights and options with an experienced Virginia drunk driving attorney may be advisable for anyone who is facing a DUI charge after going through a police checkpoint.