Guide to DUI Checkpoints in Indiana
In the United States, it’s estimated that nearly 30% of all traffic crash fatalities involve drunk drivers. In fact, in 2020, there was a drunk driving-related death every 45 minutes and by the end of that year, drunk driving was responsible for over 11,500 deaths. To curb preventable death in a targeted and efficient manner, police have implemented DUI checkpoints in Indiana. As these become more common throughout the state, it’s important that citizens understand how these checkpoints work and what their rights are when they encounter one.
If you have been charged with a crime after going through a DUI checkpoint in Indiana, set up a free consultation with an Indianapolis DUI defense attorney at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. We will evaluate your case, determine if any of your rights were violated, and formulate a strategy to achieve a favorable outcome.
Five Things to Know About DUI Checkpoints in Indiana
Although sobriety checkpoints have been commonplace in most of the United States since the 1980s, they were first used in Scandanavia in the 1930s. Today, 38 states, including Indiana, allow for DUI checkpoints. However, very few states use them. As of 2014, only 13 of those 38 states conduct checkpoint operations on a weekly basis. In Indiana, DUI checkpoints are conducted sparingly. For example, in the past four years, Hamilton County has only conducted 9 checkpoints resulting in 19 OWI arrests. They do, however, continue to exist, especially in Indianapolis.
According to a 2011 study conducted in Indianapolis, DUI checkpoints have been found to be quite effective when it comes to reducing impairment rates in downtown areas. They have also been shown to reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes. Given these benefits, DUI checkpoints in Indiana continue to take place, therefore it is best to fully understand how checkpoints operate and the rights you are entitled to when encountering them.
How Do DUI Checkpoints in Indiana Work?
Police construct DUI checkpoints in Indiana by putting up a temporary roadblock to divert cars through a barrier supervised by law enforcement. Law enforcement officers will then proceed to stop and inspect some drivers and vehicles passing through the checkpoint.
Besides Drunk Driving, What Else Do Police Screen for at Checkpoints?
Although these DUI checkpoints are intended to identify drunk drivers, they may screen for other illegal activity. While no criminal offense is off the table, law enforcement commonly screens for drugs or undocumented immigrants.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
Yes, DUI checkpoints are legal. The United States Supreme Court has held that temporary DUI checkpoints do not violate the Constitution. Furthermore, in the 2002 case of State of Indiana vs. Gerschoffer, the Indiana Supreme Court found DUI checkpoints in Indiana to be legal when conducted properly.
What Guidelines Do Police Follow at Checkpoints?
Although DUI checkpoints are legal in Indiana, that does not mean that police have free reign of the situation. There are limitations and guidelines that must be followed at checkpoints to ensure that any arrest or citation given is valid. For example, the checkpoint must:
- Be a temporary operation
- Be conducted within a reasonable timespan
- Be publicized prior to the beginning of the operation
- Only conduct stops for a short duration
- Perform adequate safety measures
- Ensure that law enforcement officers are identifiable
- Commit to a neutral and predictable process
What Constitutes a DUI in Indiana?
Under Indiana Code § 9-30-5-1, it is a Class C misdemeanor to operate a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher. However, even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is lower than .08 percent, police officers have the discretion to determine whether it is safe for you to drive, and, depending on the circumstances, may still arrest you.
Knowing Your Rights at DUI Checkpoints
When it comes to DUI checkpoints in Indiana, it is important to remember that you are not required to drive through the checkpoint. You are completely within your rights to take an exit or make a safe, legal vehicular maneuver to avoid a DUI checkpoint. Although, people who bypass a checkpoint may draw the attention of law enforcement patrolling the nearby area. If you do choose to drive through a DUI checkpoint in Indiana, however, you do have several rights that must be preserved.
Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint
- The right to not be stopped for an unreasonable amount of time.
- Courts have determined that a lengthy stop is intrusive and is, therefore, not permitted at checkpoints. At DUI checkpoints in Indiana, a reasonable amount of time to be stopped by police is between 30 seconds and two minutes, unless there is a reason to detain you.
- The right to decline to answer questions by law enforcement.
- While the police inspect your car, they may ask you or your passengers where you are going or what you are doing, among other questions. You have the right to refuse to answer. Simply inform them that you do not wish to provide any information beyond what is required, like your name, date of birth, current address, registration, and driver’s license.
- The right to refuse a field sobriety test.
- If a police officer believes that you are impaired, they may request that you submit to a field sobriety test. At times, this request can be unclear and can sound like you have no choice in the matter. However, you do have a choice. If you would like, you have the right to refuse the field sobriety test.
- The right to refuse requests to search your vehicle
- It is your 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Therefore, if stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Indiana and asked to consent to a search of your vehicle, you have the right to refuse. However, there are some instances when an officer does not require permission to search your vehicle, which include during the course of your arrest and in situations where an officer has probable cause to believe that you are involved in criminal activity.
What To Expect at a DUI Checkpoint in Indiana
While it is vital to understand your rights prior to entering a DUI checkpoint in Indiana, it is just as important to understand how DUI checkpoints work and how to handle encounters with law enforcement. Although every individual situation is different, DUI checkpoints in Indiana are all required to operate in a similar and proper manner. Generally, police will only stop a fraction of the cars going through a DUI checkpoint. In addition, they are required by law to choose which cars they stop in a neutral manner.
When encountering a DUI checkpoint in Indiana, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself. When entering the checkpoint, make sure to slow down. Speeding through a checkpoint is sure to draw some unwanted attention toward you. Also, make sure to pay attention to all the details around you. If you do not interfere with the police officers doing their job, you can even record your trip through police checkpoints in Indiana. If you are arrested, the information you retain from the checkpoint may prove to be helpful to the argument your attorney makes in your defense.
If you are stopped at the DUI checkpoint, the officer will ask you to roll down your window and may proceed to ask you several questions. The officer will check your Indiana car registration and analyze your appearance, actions, speech, and body language to determine whether you are operating the vehicle while intoxicated. In this situation, it is vital that you only provide the required information to law enforcement, albeit in a respectful and voluntary manner. Under no circumstances should you provide any extra information to law enforcement, especially information like the number of drinks that you have consumed already. Remember, anything you say can be used in the case against you.
Finally, in the event of your arrest, cooperate. Do not resist the arrest or be unreasonable with the police officers. The best time to fight an arrest is afterward, ideally with the help of an experienced Indianapolis DUI defense attorney like those at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. If you would like to speak with an attorney today, call us at 317-648-9560 or set up a free online consultation.
Challenging a DUI Checkpoint Arrest
If you are arrested at a DUI checkpoint in Indiana, you’ll need to retain the counsel of a skilled Indiana DUI defense attorney. You are entitled to your day in court, and an experienced attorney may be able to successfully challenge the validity of your arrest. When hearing a case that stems from a DUI checkpoint, courts will evaluate the evidence presented by the defense and prosecution and seek to determine the legality of both the arrest and the checkpoint, as a whole. To do so, courts will consider several factors regarding the checkpoint, including:
- The reason for the checkpoint’s location
- The reason for the defendant’s stop
- The length of the stop
- The defendant’s ability to identify the checkpoint
- The defendant’s ability to identify the police officer(s)
- Public knowledge/publicity of the checkpoint
- The ability for citizens to avoid the checkpoint
If your Indiana DUI attorney can prove to the court that your encounter with the checkpoint, or with the police, violated your rights under federal or state law, or requirements for DUI checkpoints in Indiana, your arrest could be thrown out. This is why, as mentioned earlier, it is vital to pay attention to all of the details of the checkpoint. When you speak with your attorney, do not leave any information out; you never know what subtle detail could make a substantial difference in the outcome of the case against you.
Keffer Hirschauer LLP – Former FACT Prosecutors Now Working to Protect You
If you have been arrested at a DUI checkpoint in Indiana, your best chance of having your charges dropped or your sentence reduced is having an experienced Indiana drunk driving attorney in your corner. The leaders of Keffer Hirschauer’s DUI defense team are former Fatal Alcohol Crash Team (FACT) prosecutors. They understand DUI Checkpoint laws inside and out and will be able to properly identify whether the police overstepped their bounds in your arrest.
If you’d like to better understand the circumstances of your arrest or begin to formulate the best strategy for moving forward, Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you. We have extensive knowledge of the laws regarding police checkpoints in Indiana and will leave no stone unturned. For a free consultation, call us at (317) 648-9560 or send us a message through our online contact form.