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How do you handle a roadside checkpoint in North Carolina?

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Periodically (and particularly around the holidays), law enforcement agencies everywhere start looking for ways to reinforce the message that drunk driving is unacceptable. One of the primary ways they do this is through the use of roadside checkpoints.

Roadside checkpoints are largely legal in North Carolina, and they’re not considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches so long as they’re conducted properly.

Can’t you just turn away from a checkpoint when you see one?

You do so at your own peril. In some states, you’re free to turn away from a checkpoint so long as you don’t violate any traffic rules that can justify a stop. In North Carolina, however, the state’s Supreme Court held that a “legal turn in conjunction with other circumstances, such as the time, place and manner in which it is made” can amount to enough reasonable suspicion to justify a traffic stop anyhow. 

Turning away is just likely to attract the attention of the officers and invite more scrutiny.

So, what should you do instead? Here are some tips:

  • Remain calm: Stay calm and composed. Being nervous is natural, but remain polite and respectful during your encounter.
  • Provide identification: Be prepared to provide your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance if requested. Keep these documents easily accessible in your car.
  • Limit your conversation: You have the right to remain silent. While you should provide the necessary documents the officer requests, you don’t have to answer questions beyond that. You can (and should) politely decline to answer questions related to your activities or whether you have been drinking. Never volunteer any information.
  • Refuse field sobriety tests: In some situations, you may be asked to perform field sobriety tests. These can include tasks like walking in a straight line or standing on one leg. You generally have the right to refuse these tests.

If a stop at a checkpoint does turn into charges of driving under the influence, there is legal guidance available. Once you better understand the options for your defense, it will be easier to make informed decisions.

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