Halloween Checkpoints

Charlotte DUI Halloween Checkpoints police cars with blue lights

Halloween. A great time to dress up in your favorite costume and let loose. There are house parties and bars that host parties. Alcohol and good times are everywhere. People always get a little crazy. You even get an extra hour with the time change to party (or sleep) a little longer. We all know it, including the police. As a result, you should expect a number of Charlotte Mecklenburg County Police Halloween checkpoints. While they are there to keep the roads safe for all of us, be aware that even a little alcohol can be enough to get you arrested and spend that extra hour in jail.

What to do if see a checkpoint ahead

First, do not panic and try to turn away. Police are watching for cars that try to “avoid” Halloween checkpoints (or any other for that matter). Even if you mistakenly think there is an accident ahead, the police will chase you if you turn away or turn around. They will presume that you have been drinking and are attempting to evade the checkpoint. Second, even if you have had something to drink, be aware that you do have certain rights which may come into play.

What to do if you are stopped at a checkpoint

Be polite and cooperative with the police. They are doing their job. Don’t make things difficult for them. Or you. Have your license ready to be seen as you would prefer to keep this interaction as brief as possible. If asked if you have had anything to drink, you should be truthful but not volunteering. The police can smell alcohol and are specifically looking for this indicator. If you deny any alcohol, you will immediately start the DWI investigation process. If you admit to having had a drink or beer, do not elaborate. Simply say that you are a responsible person and drink responsibly as well. If you have consumed any alcohol, you will likely be asked to pull over to a testing area and get out of your vehicle.

Should you attempt to perform field sobriety tests

There are three (3) standardized field sobriety tests performed on the roadside. These tests are used to develop probable cause to arrest you. They are not designed to “clear you.” Rather, the results are almost always used against criminal defendants. If you attempt them, you will usually fail and be arrested. If you refuse, you will be arrested. You get the idea. Here is how to best use these tests in your favor.

First, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test is the eye exam that police swear by and requires that you follow a stimulus with your eyes only without moving your head. While the results almost invariably result in a full 6 out of 6 clues, DUI defense lawyers can focus on whether you sway or stand steady during the test procedure. It is the only SFST that does not involve some sort of contorted, unnatural balancing maneuver.

Next, you will be asked to perform a very complex 9-step walk and turn (WAT) test. In my experience, very few individuals, other than seasoned police officers, can successfully complete this “test.” It is the same with the final SFST involving standing on one leg while counting (OLS). Both exercises involve completely unnatural body mechanics and strained balance without the use of your arms. In fact, both tests require your arms be maintained at your sides and count against you if you instinctively use them. As a result, I have now concluded that it would be better for a DWI client’s defense to have them politely decline stating they cannot balance well under any circumstances. This approach seems more prudent at trial than having the sometimes exaggerated display on video because a person “thinks” they do it. Of course, as soon as you dare decline any part of the procedure, you will be arrested and handcuffed. Try not to worry, you were most probably not going to be allowed to leave once you admitted to drinking and/or the officer smells alcohol.

Should you consent to breath testing

Here, the law gets a little misleading. You will be “asked” to submit to breath testing, but your “consent” has already been given just by driving on North Carolina roads. You can still refuse, but your license or driving privileges will be suspended for one (1) year, and the officer will get a warrant to go draw your blood, even forcibly if necessary. That’s right. If you refuse breath, the police can take your blood. Charlotte DUI lawyers generally prefer to defend against a breath sample test than a properly drawn and clinically tested blood sample. It is also preferable for clients. Not many people like to have a needle stick for any reason.

Right to witness

In North Carolina, you should be asked if you want to contact any witnesses who can come and observe your testing. The police also have to delay testing and wait up to thirty (30) minutes. Clients often ask if that is a good idea. I always tell them that the answer “depends” on how long it was when they last had a drink. If you consumed alcohol just before getting on the road and being stopped, you should not delay testing as much of the alcohol ingested may have not had time to enter your bloodstream. As a result, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) should be lower. However, if you stopped drinking earlier in an attempt to be responsible, you should take advantage of the extra 30 minutes to allow your body to process more of the alcohol already in your system. You will have to decide what is best depending on your individual circumstances.