Know Your Rights When You Enter a Sobriety Checkpoint on a Maine Road
Over the previous Labor Day weekend, many police departments throughout Maine conducted sobriety checkpoints. These are roadblocks that the police set up in an effort to keep the roads safe from those who may be driving while under the influence. For those drivers that have not been drinking, this can not only be an inconvenience but can also put them in an uncomfortable position.
Here are some things you should know about sobriety (OUI) checkpoints in Maine.
Despite What You May Have Heard, Sobriety Checkpoints Are Legal in Maine
According to Webb Law Firm in Portland and Saco, in most cases, police must have reasonable and individual suspicion to pull you over while you are driving, but in 1990 the Supreme Court ruled that these checkpoints are the exception to the law of reasonable suspicion. Some lawyers feel that the law is unconstitutional.
That said, law enforcement officers do not automatically have the right to ask you to pull over at a sobriety checkpoint for more questioning, search your vehicle or take a field sobriety test.
Police Departments Must Notify The Public About a Planned Sobriety Checkpoint
The Biddeford Police Department announced on Facebook on September 7 that they would be conducting a sobriety checkpoint overnight on September 9 and into the early morning hours of September 10. Web Law Firm also notes that the Supreme Court finds that unannounced police checkpoint searches are more intrusive and inflict more discomfort on drivers. Something I think we can all agree on.
In the case of Biddeford PD, only the date and approximate times were given, but no location, so it's up to drivers to be aware that they may encounter the checkpoint if driving in Biddeford.
You Can Turn Around If You Come to a Sobriety Checkpoint
This is something that many people do not know. If you come to a checkpoint and don't want to wait in a line, you are allowed to turn around and go in another direction to avoid it. Webb Law Firm however warns drivers not to commit a traffic offense while turning around. Make sure your move is completely legal. Signal, turn slowly and don't speed away.
You Don't Have To Say Anything To Law Enforcement Officers
When a law enforcement officer comes to your window at a sobriety checkpoint and asks you questions, like "Have you had anything to drink tonight?" or "Where are you headed?" you legally do not have to answer these questions. What you should be prepared to do, is provide any documents they require such as your license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Now that you know your rights at sobriety checkpoints, it's up to you to decide if you want to invoke any of them or not. If you aren't operating under the influence, you have nothing to really fear, but it's good to know that you have the right to choose what you want to share with the police in many situations.