Mississippi DUI Checkpoints
In the state of Mississippi, when law enforcement officers set up roadblocks with the intention of stopping vehicles to determine if anyone is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, this is called a DUI checkpoint. These types of checkpoints have become commonplace in Mississippi as police now consider them just one of the tools they have in their arsenal to combat drunk driving and make the roads safer.
DUI checkpoints can happen at any time or place as long as they follow the specific guidelines that the state has set down, but most often checkpoints are set up late at night or early in the morning on weekends. There is also typically an increase in checkpoints around holidays and during large celebratory events where alcohol is consumed, and sometimes police will set up in specific areas that have had a high number of alcohol-related accidents and arrests.
Mississippi law enforcement officials believe that the use of these checkpoints will not only help them to arrest individuals driving under the influence of alcohol at the checkpoint, but also deter people from drinking and driving in the first place because they will hear about the checkpoint and worry that there is a higher chance they will be caught if they do drink and drive.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Mississippi?
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of DUI checkpoints nationally with a 5 to 4 vote in the 1990 Michigan v. Sitz case. Justices argued that these checkpoints did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution as an illegal search and seizure because their sole purpose was to detect DUI, something they believed to be a useful service to the public.
Since that ruling, 11 states have outlawed DUI checkpoints, believing them to violate their state constitutions, but Mississippi and 38 other states continue to abide by the 1990 ruling, making DUI checkpoints legal there. Despite this, a number of legal experts think the Supreme Court was wrong and hope that DUI checkpoints will be abolished nationwide someday.
Part of the problem with the checkpoints, many say, is that they don’t even follow the Court’s strict interpretation of what would make them legal. Far from DUI detection being the “sole purpose” of checkpoints as outlined in their ruling, many officers will make citations completely unrelated to DUI, for things like tinted windows and unregistered cars. Since these are things that arguably would have gone unnoticed otherwise, it’s difficult to argue that they aren’t part of the checkpoint’s purpose.
And even if you take away the legal argument against checkpoints, there’s a large question out there about exactly how effective they are. In fact, research points to the fact that traditional roaming patrols have actually been far better at detecting DUI and arresting violators at far less cost to taxpayers.
But since Mississippi law still favors DUI checkpoints, you need to know your rights if you are stopped at one.
If You Are Stopped at a Mississippi DUI Checkpoint
For drivers, the way to behave at a Mississippi DUI checkpoint is fairly simple and common sense:
- Stop completely
- Roll your window down to speak to the officer
- Keep your hands where they can see them
- Avoid making any sudden movements
- Be prepared to give your name and address
- Have your license and registration ready
- Say nothing else
If you’re like most people, it’s the last one on that list that will surprise you. Most people, when approached by officers of the law, will tell them whatever they want to know because they feel intimidated or that they are legally bound to do so. At a DUI checkpoint, that is absolutely not the case. The only thing you have to tell the officer is your name and address. It is very likely that they will try to ask you a number of questions about where you’re going, where you’re coming from, and whether or not you’ve been drinking, but you are not legally required to answer any of them, and it’s actually better for you if you simply refuse to answer everything. Obviously you want to be polite about it, but it the officer continues to push you, say that you want to speak to your lawyer.
The officer might eventually ask you to take a field sobriety test, a series of balance and coordination exercises. Don’t do it. Many DUI lawyers believe this test is essentially a trap and it is designed for you to fail it. Worse, the test is completely subjective because it is based on the officer’s opinions of how well you do. It’s not legally required that you take it, so just say no – again, politely. There’s not reason to give them any more evidence that they can use against you.
If You Are Arrested at a Mississippi DUI Checkpoint
At this point, chances are that you will be asked to take a BAC test to determine your blood alcohol level. Depending on the type of machine they use, this might be a simple breath test or it might entail taking your blood. A lot of people become nervous about taking these tests, but don’t panic. Even if you fail, it doesn’t mean that you are going to automatically be convicted of DUI. There are a number of reasons why a machine might give a false positive reading for you, including things like poor calibration, improper usage, and your own body’s physiology. An experienced DUI lawyer will know all of that and attempt to get the results thrown out of court.
If you’ve been charged with a Mississippi DUI, contact an experienced Mississippi DUI attorney today to go over your options and start planning a defense.