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Your rights and sobriety checkpoints

You had just spent a nice day out on the boat, drinking a little beer, catching a few fish, and taking in some sun. As the sun started to set, you headed back to shore and loaded your catch in the back of the truck before heading home.

It was a fairly uneventful trip, until traffic started slowing down and you could see flashing lights up ahead. It wasn't the scene of an accident, it was a sobriety checkpoint.

You had been drinking earlier in the afternoon, but you weren't feeling impaired. Were you in danger of going to jail? Would an officer be able to smell beer on your breath when you rolled down the window? What are you actually required to do at a checkpoint?

These are the type of questions that would flash your mind in such a situation. Whether or not you have consumed alcohol prior to being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, you have rights.

While DUI checkpoints are legal in Florida, you still have constitutional rights that you should always insist be respected. Take the proper steps to know your rights at random checkpoints.

For example, a police officer does not have the right to check your driver's license or registration if the stop is not being initiated by a violation. However, if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are intoxicated, he or she can legally review your license and registration.

Also, you never have to give your consent to have your vehicle searched. Like with the examination of your license, an officer can search your car if he or she has probable cause to believe you have drugs, weapons, or other types of contraband. An officer will also search your car if you have been placed under arrest , or, if after making a visual inspection from the outside, can easily see illegal articles.

You have the right to refuse to answer any of the officer's questions. You can also refuse to participate in a field sobriety test. Remember, just because you are refusing to do as the officer is asking does not mean that you will not be arrested. Exercising your right not to respond may be beneficial to any resulting court case.

While you are not obliged to cooperate with the police, you should still remain calm and courteous throughout the encounter. This also applies if you end up being arrested.

Sobriety checkpoints are legal in Florida and tend to be more prevalent around holidays that typically involve drinking and in the summer months. Before you get stopped at a checkpoint, be sure you know your rights.

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