Are You Required to Answer Questions in a DUI Checkpoint?

According to Florida attorney Warren Redlich, you’re not required to even roll down your window, let alone speak to the police in a DUI checkpoint. (In Florida anyway.) When he rolls through one of those checkpoints, he puts up a piece of paper to the window that reads:  “I remain silent. No searches. I want my lawyer.” Below those emboldened words, he also lays out these stipulations:

Please put any tickets under windshield wiper.

I am not required to sign – §318.14(2).

I am not required to hand you my license – §322.15.

Thus I am not opening my window.

I will comply with clearly stated lawful orders.

There’s video of Redlich’s business partner Jeff Gray doing this and being waved on by the police after they gave his paper a cursory look. The only difference was that Gray put his license, registration and insurance card in a baggie that he hung out his window.

The Associated Press reported:

Doubts over the legality — and wisdom — of the tactics have been expressed by legal experts and local authorities.

Redlich, of Boca Raton, said his goal is not to protect drunken drivers, but to protect the innocent. He says some of his clients who passed breath-alcohol tests still faced DUI charges because the officer said he detected an odor of alcohol or the person had slurred speech.

“The point of the card is, you are affirmatively asserting your rights without having to speak to the police and without opening your window,” he said.

Not surprisingly, this does not sit well with law enforcement officials who insist drivers must speak in order to make the checkpoints work. And, they point out the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990 upheld the use of random DUI checkpoints, concluding they don’t violate constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Redlich is apparently working on flyers for ten other states, based on their respective laws.

I’m not the type to do this sort of thing with police, mainly because I don’t want to get arrested or beaten. But if you’re a well-off lawyer, and you know the law and the legal system a lot better than any cop, then I’d say go for it.

DUI checkpoints have little to do with keeping the roads safe and much to do with making arrests and issuing citations. In other words, revenue.

The AP reported:

At a recent checkpoint, Miami Police Sgt. Luis Taborda said it’s as much about deterrence and visibility as making DUI arrests. Taborda has frequently brought bad news to a family when someone is killed or seriously injured by a drunken driver.

“I’m the one that has to knock on somebody’s door and see the pain that person has to go through,” he said.

But that’s an appeal to emotion. They’re trying to say that these DUI checkpoints are what’s necessary to prevent people from being killed by a drunk driver. Whenever someone dies after being hit by a drunk driver, the police department’s first reaction is, “Well, I guess we need even more checkpoints set up.” That’s not the answer.

First of all, there is no cure-all that will once and for all get rid of drunk driver-caused deaths. But instead of treating 100% of drivers as guilty criminals who have to prove themselves innocent in the eyes of the police, they should prosecute drunk-driving murderers as the murderers they are. If someone is hit and killed by a drunk driver, and if that driver is convicted of murder, he should be executed.

To answer the headline question, in short, no. Unless there is probable cause that you’ve committed a crime, or are in the process of committing a crime. But for 99.9% of drivers going through a random checkpoint, those people do not have to answer random questions. They’re protected by the 4th and 5th Amendment.

However, that doesn’t stop police from making up the law as they go along. They do that all the time, and innocent people get hurt or killed. Sometimes the police get a slap on the wrist, but most of the time, they get away with it.

Obviously, the police don’t like what these Florida attorneys (and many other people) are doing. They’re going to say that it’s not legal. They have a vested interest in making sure civilians always do as they’re told by the police and never question them or their tactics.