Las Vegas is a popular destination during the holidays by tourists and Nevada residents alike. DUI checkpoints during these periods are increasingly common, no matter how hotly their constitutionality and effectiveness are debated. Also called sobriety roadblocks, this police operation is intended to find and arrest drug or alcohol impaired drivers. This year, two checkpoints will be created by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
According to KTNV, the first checkpoint will be conducted on October 28th during 7pm and 5am near Valley View and Desert Inn. The second will be on October 29th between 7pm and 3am in the Desert Inn and Paradise area. These areas have reported particularly high levels of drunk driving incidents during the past six months. Please keep in mind that there will be a heavy patrol of police officers throughout Las Vegas, not just near these checkpoints. Law enforcement officials from Boulder City, Las Vegas, Henderson, and the Nevada Highway Patrol will also be saturating the roads.
Are these roadblocks legal? That is the current billion-dollar question. In 1990, the United States Supreme Court ruled that these check points did not violate the 4th amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. However, these checkpoints must be performed under strict guidelines in order to ensure minimal invasiveness.
Under NRS 484B.570, the requirements for an administrative roadblock (including sobriety checkpoints) are established. This statute states that:
- The roadblock must be created on a highway location that is visible at least 100 yards in both directions
- A “stop” sign must be placed at the roadblock that is visible at least 50 yards in both directions
- At least one flashing light must be placed at the roadblock, visible at least 100 yards to oncoming traffic
- “Police Stop” warning signs must be placed at least a quarter of a mile from the roadblock at the side of the road
- A flare, light, or lantern must also be placed by the “police stop” warning to attract attention to the sign
Your Las Vegas DUI attorney can use any lack of adherence to this Nevada statute by the police to your advantage. It’s also important to remember that you do have constitutional rights, whether you are stopped at a checkpoint or pulled over elsewhere by a police officer. The police are currently allowed to stop you briefly as part of the checkpoint process, but they do not have the right to search your vehicle without probable cause or your consent. In this situation, probable cause may include one or more of the following:
- Visible presence of alcohol/ drugs
- Odor of alcohol/drugs
- Gaze nystagmus (involuntary eye movements)
- Blood-shot eyes
- Slurred speaking
- Clumsy physical movements
- Verbal admission of drug/alcohol use
- Inconsistency in answers
You do have the right to remain silent after providing identification information and registration. This can help you avoid giving the officer additional ammunition to use against you should the stop lead to arrest. You are not required to submit to any field sobriety test, however you can be required to submit to a blood or breath test under Nevada’s implied consent law. In cases where drug use is suspected, a urine sample may be asked for.
Can you refuse to take a blood or breathalyzer test? Yes, but under the state’s implied consent law, Nevada law enforcement still maintains the discretion to forcibly take a blood sample after obtaining a warrant. With the preparation and foresight that goes into a holiday weekend checkpoint, a paramedic, nurse, or other qualified individuals will be on hand to withdraw the blood sample.
If you do submit to the DUI testing, your criminal defense attorney can still help you pursue a favorable outcome. DUI testing is not infallible. There are a variety of ways in which the results could be excluded from evidence or explained by your attorney. This includes a wide range of items such as medical conditions, interference of radio frequencies, lack of maintenance in testing equipment, improper use of testing equipment, use of mouthwash or medicine containing alcohol, and others. Additionally, lack of probable cause and improper roadblock procedure may also be used in your defense.
Whether you are driving in Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, or the surrounding communities this coming Halloween weekend, remember to drive safely. No amount of entertainment is worth the risk of injury to yourself or others. The police will also be out en masse. In the unfortunate event that you do find yourself in the stressful experience of a sobriety checkpoint, remember: you do have rights.