OVI Checkpoints in Ohio: FAQs and What You Need to Know
There is a lot of confusion around OVI checkpoints in Ohio.
The OVI lawyers at Casper & Casper receive many common questions about OVI checkpoints: what are OVI checkpoints? Are they even constitutional? What are my rights?
Today, we’re answering these important questions in an OVI Checkpoint FAQ. Keep reading to learn just about everything you need to know!
What Is an OVI Checkpoint?
An OVI checkpoint (also known as a sobriety checkpoint) is a planned police roadblock designed to randomly check for drunk drivers and to deter drunk driving. Law enforcement set up traffic cones and barricades to stop vehicles passing through (whether that’s every vehicle or only some vehicles).
During this checkpoint, law enforcement officers stop vehicles to request license and registration, ask the drivers questions, and check for signs of alcohol impairment. Police may ask drivers who they suspect are impaired to submit to further testing—like field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer. Police may also arrest suspected drunk drivers who pass through the checkpoint.
Are OVI Checkpoints Constitutional?
We provide an in-depth answer to this question in a previous blog post, but the simple answer is “yes.” That said, OVI checkpoints must follow state and federal guidelines to be constitutional. These guidelines include the following:
- The checkpoint’s time and location must be made public in advance.
- The checkpoint should be visible from a distance so that drivers have time to stop.
- Law enforcement’s presence should be obvious.
- Police officers at the checkpoint should be trained in OVI detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.
- The site of the OVI checkpoint should be chosen for the purpose of public safety.
- The checkpoint should result in very little inconvenience and intrusion to drivers who pass through it.
If I See a Checkpoint Ahead, Do I Have to Go through It?
The law requires OVI checkpoints to be announced in advance and visible from a distance. However, this also gives drivers an opportunity to avoid the checkpoint. But is that legal? Do you have to go through a checkpoint you know about in advance or see up ahead?
No, you aren’t legally required to go through a checkpoint. If you know police are setting up a checkpoint on your usual route, it is perfectly legal to take a different route.
However, it is illegal to violate traffic safety laws in order to avoid a checkpoint. For example, if you see a checkpoint directly ahead and make an unsafe and illegal U-turn in order to avoid it, it’s very likely that police will follow and pull you over.
What Are My Rights If I Am Stopped?
If your car is randomly stopped during an OVI checkpoint, remember your rights.
You are obligated to provide law enforcement with your driver’s license and registration.
However, you are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions like, “Have you been drinking?” or “Where are you headed?” It’s always a good idea to exercise your right to remain silent.
In addition, you have the right to refuse searches of your vehicle or person. You have Fourth Amendment rights even during an OVI checkpoint.
It’s also important to remember that, during an OVI checkpoint, police must have reasonable suspicion to detain you and probable cause to arrest you for an OVI. Police cannot stop, detain, and search any driver they please: this is illegal and can result in OVI charges being thrown out.
Do I Have to Submit to OVI Tests?
During an OVI checkpoint, law enforcement will look for things like bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol or marijuana, open bottles in the car, etc. If they suspect OVI, they can ask you to pull over and submit to FSTs and breath tests.
It’s not against the law to refuse to perform field sobriety tests. However, under Ohio’s implied consent law, it is a crime to refuse a Breathalyzer. (We talk more about this in a previous blog post.)
Is OVI the Only Thing Law Enforcement Looks for during a Checkpoint?
While the primary goal of an OVI checkpoint is catching drunk drivers, that doesn’t mean police aren’t also on the lookout for other crimes. You can be charged for any number of offenses, including:
- Driving without a license
- Driving without valid registration (for example, the registration is expired or the proof of registration isn’t in the car)
- Operating a vehicle without insurance
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Vehicle infractions, like a broken headlight or brake light, burned out tag light, etc.
Questions? Call Us Today
We hope this FAQ answered many of your OVI checkpoint-related questions.
However, if you still have more questions or you need help with OVI charges, we’re here to help.
Call us today to speak with an experienced and skilled OVI lawyer at Casper & Casper about your case.