Tuesday , October 17 2017
Home / Alabama DUI News / ARE YOU REQUIRED TO ROLL DOWN YOUR WINDOW AT A DUI ROADBLOCK / CHECKPOINT?

ARE YOU REQUIRED TO ROLL DOWN YOUR WINDOW AT A DUI ROADBLOCK / CHECKPOINT?

There has been quite a bit of buzz lately about a video illustrating a Florida attorney’s creative advice on handling DUI roadblocks / checkpoints. The video suggests you hang your ID and other documentation outside of your rolled up car window in a zip-lock bag along with a note stating “I remain silent. No searches. I want my lawyer….”  In the video, this approach works like a charm, but that does not mean it is good advice for drivers to follow in the real world? Can a driver at a checkpoint be legally ordered to roll down his or her window? What about refusing to verbally communicate with the police. Let’s take a look at the first of these questions. We will consider the second question is a later post.

The reasoning for hanging a baggie out a closed window is to prevent officers from justifying further detention based on their interaction with the driver. Officers often use their subjective observations of drivers during a roadblock encounter to further detain them, which could lead to a DUI or other arrest. For example, an officer my claim he or she smelled the odor of alcohol coming from inside the vehicle or that the driver’s speech was slurred. These types of observations are highly subjective and prone to abuse by unscrupulous officers.

If you don’t speak and you remain behind closed windows, an officer could not credibly testify that your speech was slurred or that you smelled of alcohol.  However, the question remains, is the citizen required to roll down a window at a roadblock at the request of an officer?

Regarding the first question, the law seems is a bit ambiguous.  There are two Supreme Court case that may shed some light on the situation though neither is directly on point.  The first case is Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 98 S.Ct. 330 (1977).  In Mimms the court held that: it does not violate the 4th Amendment for an officer who is making a routine traffic stop to order that the driver step out of the vehicle during the encounter, even when there is no reason to suspect the driver of any criminal activity beyond what he is being ticketed for.  The Supreme Court weighed the intrusion into the driver’s liberty against the safety of the officer. The Court found the officer’s interest in his safety “legitimate and weighty” and while the intrusion into the driver’s liberty was minimal.

The second U.S. Supreme Court case is Maryland v. Wilson, 117 S.Ct. 882 (1997), which extended the holding in Wilson by holding that police making a traffic stop may order passengers to get out of the car pending completion of the stop. While Mimms and Wilson involved a traffic stops and not a checkpoints.  A court very well could extend their reasoning to checkpoint stops as well. If so, then officers could force the driver to exit, which would negate the benefit of not rolling the window down.

Another issue is that the behavior of not rolling one’s window down could arguably give officers a reasonable suspicion to further detain the driver for a DUI investigation.  Further, an overzealous officer might also arrest the driver under the particular state’s obstructing governmental operations/administration statute – a vague catchall statue. See, e.g., Alabama Code 13A-10-2. While the driver might well prevail in the ensuing prosecution, the cost, hassle and risk involved are a high price to pay to prove a point.

In a future post I hope to consider the question of whether you are required to verbally interact with officers at a roadblock / checkpoint stop.

About Phil Price

Phil Price
Phillip B. Price, Sr. has been representing citizens charged with DUI in Alabama for over thirty years. He is the only attorney in North Alabama who is Board Certified as a DUI Specialist. He has represented more people accused of the offense of DUI than any other lawyer in North Alabama. His success rate is astonishing. He is only the eighth person in the entire country to be awarded the prestigious Erwin-Taylor Award by the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD), the nation’s premier organization for DUI Defense attorneys. The award, which is the highest honor granted in the field of DUI Defense, was given to Mr. Price at the NCDD’s summer forum at the Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2012. He is a Founding Fellow of the NCDD. He served as Dean of the NCDD in 1997-98. He was the third attorney in the United States to become a Fellow of the NCDD. Mr. Price has been an invited lecturer in over 25 states, teaching other lawyers in various aspects of DUI Defense. He also instructs law enforcement officers how to perform better in their jobs of DUI enforcement. Mr. Price practiced law for many years with the late Macon L. Weaver, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Mr. Price served as president of the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers in 1992-93. Mr. Price is the author of the Alabama DUI Handbook (published by West®, a Thomson Reuters business) and has published many articles dealing with most aspects of DUI cases, including the subject of breath tests, field sobriety tests, jury selection and cross-examination. He is well known for his knowledge dealing with various breath testing instruments, including the Drager Alcotest MK III, Intoxilyzer Model 5000, and Alco Sensor IV. He owns each of these devices. He has taught courses on the operation of evidential breath test devices. In 1994, in a landmark decision, he persuaded the Alabama Supreme Court to throw out the Alabama breath test program. Even the definition of DUI as a crime in Alabama comes from a case he handled in the Alabama Supreme Court in 1989. He has been selected by his peers for Best Lawyers® and Super Lawyers®. He has been received an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell®, the highest peer review rating in legal ability and ethical standards. He has received a “superb” rating from Avvo™.

If you would like to contact the author, please visit: http://www.alabamaduiattorney.com/


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