After waging their aggressive speeding ticket war against Stamford and Greenwich drivers, local police have just announced roving DUI / DWI sobriety checkpoints in Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien and surrounding towns to help curb and deter drunk driving, driving while operating cell phones, and all-around bad driving during the holiday season. As always, these checkpoints are well-intentioned; however, for the day-to-day driver trying to juggle a busy schedule of long hours at work, holiday party season, and social engagements, these checkpoints can result in an arrest for DUI / DWI pursuant to C.G.S. § 14-227a.
So how can holiday drivers avoid a DUI / DWI arrest at these checkpoints? The answer….
Know your rights. Know the Connecticut DUI / DWI laws. Know how to conduct yourself during a checkpoint interview and interrogation. Know not to drink and drive over the legal limit. And finally, know when it is best to contact a top Stamford or Greenwich DUI / DWI attorney in the event you are suspected of driving under the influence.
Usually police need probable cause to pull over a driver suspected of DUI / DWI. That means they usually need to be committing a motor vehicle offense or infraction such as speeding, running a red light or stop sign, crossing the yellow line, or driving with tinted windows or no headlights. With checkpoints, however, the police do not need probable cause to stop your vehicle. However, they do need probable cause to arrest you for DUI. So as soon as you are pulled over, the police will begin looking for signals, or clues, to conclude that you are guilty of a Connecticut DWI / DUI.
During checkpoint interviews, police will shine their flashlights into your car and in your face to help them determine whether you are drunk driving or not. They will lean in closely to smell you and determine whether an odor of alcohol is emanating from your body or breath. (Note to my readers: The myth that if you suck on a quarter then you will beat a breath test is pure fiction). They will also ask for your driver’s license and registration certificate and will closely watch whether you fumble for these documents and whether your hands are particularly shaky or unsteady. They will ask you simple questions as to where you are coming from, where you are going, and how much you had to drink that evening. If you stutter, stammer or look away from the police when questioned, these are sometimes indicators to seasoned law enforcement officers that you may be intoxicated or that you are not being completely honest with them. Therefore, proceed very carefully and slowly with law enforcement during a DUI checkpoint interview.
If you are not under arrest, then you do not have to answer any substantive questions during a checkpoint interview. And whether you are arrested or not, you do not have to take any field or breath sobriety tests. As with almost any police interview or questioning, anything you say can, could, and will be used against you by law enforcement if necessary. Know, however, that this refusal comes with consequences. What you do have to comply with is a checkpoint officer’s command to stop the vehicle, turn off the motor, or pull over to a side shoulder or parking lot. What you do not have to comply with are field sobriety tests, breath, blood or urine test requests, or answer any questions regarding drinking or driving. Generally, we advise our clients to provide basic information to police such as name and address, and to be respectful and courteous during the entire interaction, even if you do not wish to answer their questions or comply with their test requests. At that point, it is advised you call a top Stamford, Greenwich, Darien or New Canaan DWI / DUI attorney immediately.
After you are initially interviewed by a police officer at the checkpoint, the officer will determine whether he or she suspects you of a Connecticut DWI / DUI under C.G.S. § 14-227a. If the officer believes you are drunk driving, then he will instruct you to pull over to the side and ask you to perform the three field sobriety tests: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (the “HGN” or eye test), the walk and turn test, and the one-legged stand. Again, you are not required to perform these tests, but if you refuse, expect some intense scrutiny from the police. You are also free to call an attorney while you are waiting to be screened at a DUI checkpoint, just do not make that phone call while you operating the motor vehicle.
If, after you have been interviewed by police and/or taken any sobriety tests, the police then have to decide whether they have probable cause to arrest you. If they choose to arrest you, then you will be brought down to the police station, and booked and processed for a DWI / DUI charge under C.G.S. §14-227a.
If you have been arrested for DWI / DUI charges under C.G.S. § 14-227a in Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich, Wilton, Westport, Fairfield, Norwalk, or anywhere else in Connecticut or Westchester County, give the experienced DWI attorneys at Mark Sherman Law a call today. Our “two-attorney” review process guarantees that at least two of our DUI attorneys will review your police reports and work as aggressively as possible to attempt to get your DUI charges dropped. Our rates are competitive and we are available around the clock at (203) 358-4700.