You are on your way home after a fun Holiday party and discover the road ahead is blocked by a police roadblock, what do you do? We’ve all found ourselves in this situation. Law Tigers never condones drinking and driving, so please choose to take Uber or Lyft or have a Designated Driver if you do decide to drink. However, you may find yourself dealing with a roadblock even if you haven’t had a drink, so it’s important to know your rights.
Legality of roadblocks
The US Supreme Court has found roadblocks to be legal for a variety of purposes, the most prominent being the so-called “sobriety checkpoint.” While roadblocks may be legal, there are restrictions on what the police may do when they have you stopped at a roadblock.
You do not have to answer any questions, particularly questions that would be self-incriminating. You do not have to divulge your travel plans or where you have been. Remember, the police are not your friends here but are fishing for probable cause and a reason to detain you. You don’t get any brownie points for cooperating with them. A good response to any question beyond basic instructions is, “I don’t wish to discuss my affairs, may I leave now?” You can choose not to volunteer information but it is still important to be respectful and polite while answering questions.
You can be required to show documentation, such as your driver’s license or car registration, but you do not have to open your window any further than the space to hand it out if you are in your vehicle.
If the officer asks to search your vehicle or your person, never permit a voluntary search. The police do not have the right to search your vehicle or yourself without proper cause that you have, or are currently committing a crime. They may ask for permission to search your vehicle, but you have the right to decline a search or ask what grounds they have for conducting a search. Remember that the police must have a warrant or probable cause to search your vehicle or yourself.
The police can detain you at the roadblock for 15-20 minutes after which they must take formal action or allow you to leave. If they are delaying your departure, you have the right to ask them for a legitimate reason for the delay and the right to ask if you may leave. Always be courteous, but know your rights.
Can you turn around to avoid the roadblock
You are allowed to make a legal u-turn to avoid a roadblock but most roadblocks are set-up in places that are difficult to turn around in, or on roads in which it is illegal to make a u-turn. It is also a common practice to have a police car in reserve to look for those individuals trying to avoid the roadblock. You may cause additional scrutiny and harassment by trying to avoid the roadblock.
This Holiday season, know your rights if you encounter a roadblock and avoid driving under the influence of alcohol. Have a safe and enjoyable Holiday season, we look forward to seeing you next year.
This article is also posted in the December 2017 issue of AZ Rider
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