There’s little that can kill the vibe of a night out faster than a sobriety checkpoint, also known as a DUI checkpoint. Unless you plan ahead, the distance between blue flashing lights and the need to get SR-22 insurance can be a short one.
We’ll explain what a sobriety checkpoint is, whether it’s legal in Georgia, and how to avoid falling victim to one while enjoying a night out.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Is a Sobriety Checkpoint, and Is it Legal in Georgia?
A sobriety checkpoint is a roadblock set up temporarily by the police at a time and location chosen to catch motorists driving under the influence. Around closing time, you’ll see them on a busy street near a nightlife zone with numerous restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
The police don’t have to stop every car, especially if the checkpoint is congested. However, they can’t just stop “suspicious” vehicles at random as they pass the chokehold. If they don’t stop every ride, they must establish a pattern, such as stopping every fourth car.
Another Georgia regulation is that the police must issue advance public notice of the checkpoint, including time and location. But there’s no requirement as to where the notification must be placed or its frequency. So, your police department might mention their plans a day before on their website and electronically distribute a press release to the local media.
Is that enough? Your attorney might claim the notice was inadequate, but that would be for the courts to decide. You don’t want to get to that point.
Let’s look at a couple of easy ways to avoid pricey entanglements with your Georgia community’s legal system.
Don’t Drive Impaired
Yes, we’re starting with the most obvious and foolproof way to “beat” the system. If you aren’t impaired, you have nothing to worry about except losing a few minutes to a minor traffic bottleneck.
If you don’t drink at all or limit yourself to a drink or two all evening, you should be fine. However, if you’re not sure you have that kind of willpower, leave your ride at home.
Call for a rideshare or go out with a dependable (and very valuable) designated driver friend. Take public transportation or even walk if you’re not far from your neighborhood bar.
Carefully Avoid Sobriety Checkpoints
As soon as you see a DUI checkpoint, execute a tire-squealing U-turn and screech away in the opposite direction at top speed. Works every time.
Yes, of course, we’re kidding. That will get you in trouble for sure.
There are legal ways of (perhaps) avoiding the checkpoints, but first, consider your motivation. If you’re taking notes while reading this section, is it because you’re assuming you’ll be ending your evening in an impaired state? That’s a problem.
However, you should know your legal rights as a Georgia citizen. As we said earlier, advance notice of the checkpoint must be made. If you catch the news, you can alert all of your partying friends and plan alternative routes home.
You can also reroute your vehicle if you see the checkpoint ahead of you. That’s not always easy, though. It’s usually strategically located to make avoidance difficult. It might be in a bend in the road or other place where you don’t have much advance visual warning, and there might be no side streets for quick detours.
The police team is likely to include at least one “chase” car. This cop is tasked with stopping drivers who seem to be avoiding the checkpoint. While it’s not illegal to turn around if it’s safe and legal to do so, your avoidance might trigger enough suspicions to make a legal stop.
Also, consider the actions you take to avoid roadblocks. If you execute a U-turn and don’t use your turn signal or brake, you can be stopped and ticketed for those violations – even if you’re not driving drunk.
Bottom line — you can legally attempt to dodge a sobriety checkpoint, but good luck with that.
What Are My Legal Responsibilities During a Georgia Sobriety Checkpoint Stop?
Name, rank, and serial number.
No, it’s not literally like being a prisoner of war, but somewhat similar. In Georgia, you have to provide your name and address, and show your driver’s license if the officer asks for it. You don’t have to explain where you’re going to or coming from, or report how much you’ve had to drink that evening.
The police can require a breathalyzer or other field sobriety tests if impaired driving is suspected. You have the right to refuse such tests, but you can still be arrested if the officer suspects impairment for other reasons. These might include your manner of speech, a strong smell of alcohol coming from you, an open bottle in plain sight, or other cues.
A refusal to take a breath test can result in a license suspension and the ability to drive only with SR-22 insurance.
If you’re sober, your best response is to be courteous, answer questions, and provide your license when asked. In your case, the checkpoint will only be a short-term hassle.
If Things Don’t Go Quite So Well, Learn About SR-22 Insurance
SR-22 insurance isn’t insurance at all. It’s legal certification guaranteeing that you’ve obtained at least the minimal level of required auto insurance.
Drivers can be subject to an SR-22 mandate if they’ve been designated high-risk drivers for various reasons, including a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI).
Once the courts decide you can drive again, you might be required to file an SR-22 before you can start your engine. Your auto insurance company has to file the paperwork for you after you’ve obtained coverage.
Be forewarned that the auto insurance required for your SR-22 is likely more expensive than what you once paid. That’s because you’re now considered to be a high-risk driver.
The good news is that your cost of insurance will decrease over time as your driving record improves. Also, if you use an independent auto insurance agent to get this coverage, your agent can get multiple quotes from major insurance carriers to help find the most affordable rates.