Many people see police roadblocks as a hindrance to their freedom of movement and often question their legality. But whether or not a roadblock is legal depends on a state’s laws and the peculiar circumstances of the case.
Generally, roadblocks are illegal in Illinois unless they are checkpoints set up for a specific purpose and not for general law enforcement.
The most common examples of legal roadblocks in Illinois are the state-approved sobriety checkpoints. Drivers who go through these checkpoints may be arrested and charged with a DUI offense if they are suspected to be driving while their senses are impaired due to their consumption of drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance. However, for such arrests to be legal certain rules/requirements must be met.
If you’ve been arrested and charged with a DUI at a sobriety checkpoint, a Chicago Traffic Violations Lawyer from Hirsch Law Group can examine the circumstances of your arrest and may be able to get your charges dismissed if it is found that the proper procedure was not followed or your rights where breached in any way.
Below, we examine some of the legal requirements for roadblocks in Illinois and the rights you have to keep you informed and help you decide whether or not you need to seek legal assistance.
DUI checkpoints in Illinois are used to deter drunk driving. They are typically set up in areas that have high rates of DUI incidents statistically. However, they must comply with certain requirements or guidelines, including the following:
They must be planned and announced by supervising law enforcement officials. Individual police officers cannot decide to create DUI checkpoints on their own.
Cars that are being stopped must be chosen randomly and based on an obvious sequence or pattern. Usually, it’s one in every five cars.
There must be warning signs and adequate lighting in the area.
DUI checkpoints are not meant to last forever in a specific location and must have a predetermined end.
If the police stop you at a checkpoint, they may ask you routine questions such as where you’re headed or coming from. They could also ask to see your driver’s license and registration documents.
During the encounter, the police would be looking for signs of impairment, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or irrational responses. Those signs generally indicate intoxication and could constitute probable cause (or a reason) for a DUI arrest. Without such probable cause, they cannot arrest you or anyone else.
Some of the other things that the police cannot do lawfully at a sobriety checkpoint include;
Stopping vehicles based on their personal biases. The police cannot stop a car because the driver is of a certain age or race or because the car looks old or expensive. As stated earlier, traffic stops must follow a predetermined pattern.
Searching cars without reasonable cause. The police have no reason to search your vehicle unless they reasonably suspect that you have alcohol, drugs, or anything legal in it. What amounts to reasonable suspicion in such cases varies, but a common example is when the offending item, e.g., a bottle of alcohol, sits in plain view.
If a person gets arrested and charged with a DUI in any of such instances, the arrest would likely be unlawful and constitute a valid defense to help them overcome their charges.
As an Illinois motorist, you have certain rights at a DUI checkpoint. Whether or not you exercise these rights is up to you, but all the same, it is important that you’re aware of them so you can seek legal redress if they are breached.
Those rights include the following;
The Fifth Amendment guarantees your right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions from law enforcement that may incriminate you. Therefore, you do not have to answer questions a police officer asks at checkpoints.
If you find the questions you’re asked uncomfortable, you can simply indicate to the police officer that you’re choosing to exercise your constitutional right. Your refusal cannot be interpreted as an admission of guilt.
The police cannot search your vehicle at a DUI stop or anywhere else in Illinois without a search warrant unless in limited circumstances where such searches are authorized by law.
If you’ve been subjected to such an unlawful search, you may be able to rely on that illegality to get your charges dropped during your trial.
Illinois implied consent laws presume that all motorists in the state have agreed to be subject to DUI chemical tests and field sobriety tests. You can reject that presumption by expressly refusing testing if the issue arises at a checkpoint.
However, refusing testing leads to an automatic driver’s license suspension for a year, which makes it an inappropriate response in many circumstances.
You are under no legal obligation to go through DUI checkpoints. You may turn around safely if there’s room for you to do so. Just make sure not to commit other traffic violations as you do, as that could give the officers reasonable suspicion to stop you.
If you were arrested at a roadblock on suspicions of driving under the influence and charged to court, you could face several consequences if convicted, including the following:
Mandatory alcohol education programs
Penalty points on your driving record.
A DUI conviction cannot be expunged in Illinois, which means that the criminal record of your conviction will remain with you all your life. Being an ex-convict could make it difficult for you to get jobs and other opportunities to advance yourself in life.
The good news is that you can defend yourself in court and work to avoid such an outcome. A traffic lawyer is invaluable in such circumstances, and it is important that you get one to represent you as soon as possible.
Once you secure the services of a traffic lawyer in Illinois, tell them everything that transpired between you and the police at the checkpoint when you were arrested and all other details surrounding your case. The information you provide can help your lawyer identify any procedural errors or mistakes made by the police in your case and use that as a starting point to defend you and secure your freedom from your charges.
Checkpoints and roadblocks can keep people safe by helping the police apprehend drunk drivers before they cause harm to others. But they can also be used to initiate wrongful DUI arrests and charges.
If you believe this is what happened in your case, it is important that you fight the charges leveled against you to avoid being burdened with the long-term consequences of a DUI conviction.
We can assist you during this difficult time at Hirsch Law Group and ensure you do not face the criminal justice system alone. With our knowledge and experience, you can trust us to defend your rights and fight to ensure a positive outcome for you using the legal resources at our disposal.
Contact us today for a free initial consultation. Let us help you determine the next steps for your case.