Understanding Your Rights At A DUI Checkpoint
At a DUI checkpoint, police officers can ask for a breath test and other sobriety tests—even if there’s no evidence that you’ve consumed drugs or alcohol. These checkpoints are common in Manitoba, especially around the holidays—here’s what you need to know:
What Are DUI Checkpoints?
DUI checkpoints—sometimes called checkstops—are areas set up by police on roadways to check for impaired drivers. These checkpoints are usually set up when police suspect a higher percentage of drivers may be under the influence, like during the holidays or on long weekends. Their goal is to discourage people from drinking alcohol or using drugs and driving.
Checkstops in Manitoba are run by both the RCMP and the Winnipeg Police Service. Police can administer breathalyzer tests at these checkstops—and they do not need reasonable suspicion to do so. Canada has mandatory alcohol screening laws that make this possible.
Police check for more than alcohol intoxication at DUI checkpoints—their aim is to take any driver who is inebriated off the road. Cannabis intoxication and intoxication on other drugs—even prescription drugs—can lead to consequences. You may be asked to go to a police station so that officers can perform a blood test to see if any drugs are in your system—this usually occurs after other sobriety tests are failed.
What Are Your Rights?
When stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you still maintain all of your legal rights. Police officers are limited in what actions they can take at these checkpoints. They can:
- Ask you to provide your name, your address, and the name and address of the vehicle’s registered owner (if it’s not you)
- Ask you to provide your driver’s licence
- Ask you for proof of insurance
- Look through the windows of your vehicle
- Ask you to take a breathalyzer test or other sobriety tests
You cannot drive through a DUI checkpoint without stopping, and avoiding a DUI checkpoint by making a U-turn, quickly pulling onto a side street, or performing a similar maneuver can land you in hot water.
Aside from these points, your rights are intact. You do not have to answer questions other than the questions listed above—you always have the right to remain silent. The police do not have the right to search your vehicle without probable cause—a point we’ll address in greater detail later in this article.
What You Should Do
Have Your Documentation Ready
When pulling up to a DUI checkpoint, get your driver’s licence and insurance ready. Both you and the officers running the checkpoint want traffic to flow through as quickly and efficiently as possible. Roll your windows down as you arrive at the checkpoint.
Take the Breathalyzer Test if Asked
You may be asked to take a breathalyzer test (sometimes called a breath test) or other sobriety tests. Failure to take a sobriety test, including a breath test, can lead to charges under the Canadian Criminal Code.
Don’t Volunteer Information You Weren’t Asked For
The police may ask you a variety of questions when you stop at a DUI checkpoint. Aside from the questions we listed above (your name, your address, and the name and address of the vehicle’s registered owner), you do not need to answer any questions—you have the right to remain silent.
The main exception to this rule is if you do not have your driver’s licence or insurance with you. Police are allowed to ask for these documents at checkpoints, and if you do not have them with you, it’s best to tell the police where they are.
Aside from these points, you never have to volunteer information, and you never have to answer questions that a police officer asks you. Remain courteous, but don’t feel pressured to give information you don’t want to.
A DUI checkpoint takes time and energy to run, and it can take some time to process documents, ask questions, and administer checks. You may be waiting for some time. Be patient, remember the rules and rights we’ve set out here, and you should be through the checkpoint in no time.
Can the Police Search My Vehicle?
The goal of a DUI checkpoint is to curb impaired driving and pull high and drunk drivers off the road—not to give police the ability to arbitrarily search vehicles.
Police may look through the windows of your vehicle with a flashlight, but they cannot search it without probable cause. Unfortunately, what an officer deems to be probable cause can seem flimsy—there are reports of officers searching vehicles because a driver’s hand was trembling while reaching for their licence. The smell of marijuana is also often used as cause to search a vehicle.
Nervousness should not be seen as a reason to search your vehicle, but police may still determine that it is. Remember your rights, stay silent, and contact a lawyer as soon as possible if a police officer searches your vehicle at a DUI checkstop.
Seeking Legal Counsel for a DUI in Winnipeg?
We can help.
You may have been charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You may have had your vehicle searched at a DUI checkstop. No matter what occurred, you can count on Matt Gould. He’s a DUI lawyer in Winnipeg with years of experience. He knows the law when it comes to driving under the influence—and he can help you.