Operating while impaired (OWI) roadblocks (also known as sobriety checkpoints) are a popular tool used by Louisiana law enforcement agencies to catch drunk drivers, especially around the holidays and during Mardi Gras. If you have been arrested for OWI after going through one of these checkpoints, you should know that OWI roadblocks are subject to stringent guidelines. This means that if the roadblock was not conducted properly, there is a chance that your drunk-driving charge could be dismissed.
OWI Roadblock Guidelines
To curb the violation of your Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure, police departments must follow certain rules when it comes to conducting OWI roadblocks. For example, a roadblock cannot be set up arbitrarily–the supervising officers must use data that shows a need for it (such as a higher-than-average number of alcohol-related accidents or drunk-driving arrests in a certain location or at a specific time of day).
Once the date and location of the OWI roadblock has been decided, it must be publicized in advance to maximize the deterrent effect it has on drinking and driving. On the day of the roadblock, there must be signs or lights indicating that it is ahead and all officers must be in uniform. In addition, there must be a preset pattern on how to stop vehicles, such as every car or every third car.
If an officer stops you at a roadblock, he or she will ask for your license, insurance, and registration. While you are required to answer any questions regarding your identity, you are not obliged to answer questions regarding whether you have had anything to drink or where you are going.
Should the officer notice what he or she believes are signs of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, or open containers, you may be asked to exit the vehicle and perform a series of field sobriety tests. If you fail these tests, the officer can request that you take a breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC).
Learn Your Rights–Speak To An OWI Lawyer
When you are arrested for an OWI at a roadblock, you do have certain rights. Attorney J. Bradley Cockrell can review how the OWI roadblock was conducted to determine if the guidelines were followed correctly. If the police department deviated from the proper protocol, a motion could be filed to dismiss your charges.
For more information on your case, please schedule an appointment now for a free initial consultation.