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Can you turn around at a DUI checkpoint?
Most drivers have probably encountered a DUI checkpoint, where police randomly check drivers who pass through for possible intoxication. For drivers who may have had one or two drinks, DUI checkpoints can -- or perhaps should -- cause anxiety; the blood alcohol concentration required for a DUI charge can often be less than what many people would consider "drunk."
But what can these drivers, or other drivers who may wish to avoid contact with law enforcement, do when they see an upcoming DUI checkpoint? Is it legal to just turn around?
Drivers Are Not Obligated to Proceed Through Checkpoint
If it can be done without breaking any other traffic laws, such as those that prohibit U-turns on certain streets, a driver is generally under no obligation to proceed through a DUI checkpoint.
Although DUI checkpoints have been found to be legal as a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, a driver is only required to submit a law enforcement search if he passes through the checkpoint and is selected.
Turning onto a side street or turning around before passing through a checkpoint is generally not, in and of itself, against the law. But again, if by doing so you violate another traffic law (like crossing double yellow lines), that can give police a reason to initiate a traffic stop.
Attracting Law Enforcement Scrutiny
While the act of simply turning around at a DUI checkpoint will not in and of itself give a police officer the reasonable suspicion required to make a DUI stop, the officer may be able to stop you if he observes any driving behavior that would be sufficient for reasonable suspicion, such as slow or erratic driving, straddling the center line, or making an illegal turn.
In addition, a police officer may stop you for any other traffic or vehicle code violation (like window tint or a busted tail light), at which point he will be on the lookout for any signs of intoxication. Your best bet for avoiding trouble from a DUI checkpoint? Don't drink and drive.
Find out more about what can lead to a DUI arrest at FindLaw's section on DUI Law.