Seth Okin on Sobriety Checkpoints

Sobriety Checkpoints is discussed by criminal lawyer Seth Okin

The following blog is excerpted from a transcription of an interview with attorney Seth Okin in which he discusses sobriety checkpoints in Maryland.

What rights does an individual have at a DUI checkpoint?

Seth Okin: I’m not a big fan of sobriety checkpoints. It is a valid method of determining suspicion and the state does allow them, but I don’t particularly like them, I never will. I think that the job of an officer is to be on the street investigating, not testing every single person that comes by. At a sobriety checkpoint, they stop everyone, including people who are innocently driving home with kids in the car; they’re not criminals. The police really focus on holidays and big travel weekends. They look for popular routes where they will usually get something and they put up a sobriety check based on the likelihood that an intoxicated driver would pass by them. If they set it up in one spot, everybody usually goes another way, so they are set up in the wrong spot. They always say that the purpose of checkpoints is to prevent DUI accidents and that they want to get you before you commit a crime. They want to make sure that you’re sober. Every time a vehicle approaches, an officer walks over to check the vehicle. They can even stick their head in. They just keep the cars in a line and they go one by one. You just have to stay in your car; you shouldn’t get out of your vehicle. You just stay in the slow moving traffic, stay in your line, and don’t honk or do anything to draw attention. The police are watching for any kind of sign, for example drivers who are looking at something or reaching for something, turning around, or fidgeting in their car. They look for any suspicious activity. You don’t want to be moving around radically trying to hide a bottle or drugs. Don’t give clues; just sit in your car, be patient, and follow the directions that you’re given. Most of the time, you’re going to be okay, unless of course you are drunk and you smell like alcohol; at that point they’re absolutely going to check you out.

How are DUI checkpoints different from DUI stops?

Seth Okin: They are not really any different. The officer has to stop you at a DUI checkpoint. If they smell alcohol, the first thing they’re going to say is, “Have you been drinking this evening?” “I smell alcohol, when was last drink you had?” They will ask you to step out of the vehicle and they’re going to test you.

Seth Okin is an aggressive criminal defense attorney who represents clients charged in Maryland. Call his Maryland law office to schedule a free consultation at (410) 782-0742.