Criminal Law

Stopped at a DWI checkpoint in Arkansas?

Stopped at a DWI checkpoint in Arkansas?

DWI checkpoints have their own special sets of rules for the police to play by.  Unlike a traditional traffic stop for which turns into an arrest for driving while intoxicated, a sobriety checkpoint must follow its own set of rules.

How does a traditional traffic stop occur?

In a traditional traffic stop, the police officer is required to develop reasonable suspicion that a traffic offence has been committed to initiate a stop and make contact with the driver of the vehicle. That reasonable suspicion can come from many things such as a defective light on the vehicle to the manner of driving (speeding, weaving, etc…).

Do police need reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle at a sobriety checkpoint?

For a sobriety checkpoint stop to occur, the officer does not have to observe any type of driving that would normally give rise to a stop. The officer can simply stop vehicles passing a certain point without regard to whether or not they have reasonable suspicion to believe the person has committed a traffic offence.

How are police able to stop your vehicle without reasonable suspicion?

For a sobriety checkpoint to be lawful, a few rules must be followed by the police who are conducting the sobriety checkpoint. First, the plan for the checkpoint must have been previously designed by supervising officers before the checkpoint is setup. Second, the purpose of the previously established checkpoint plan must have a neutral objective. If the police follow these rules, the sobriety checkpoint will most likely be upheld as a valid checkpoint.

What happens after I arrive at the sobriety checkpoint?

Just because you are stopped at a valid checkpoint and have been drinking, does not mean your DWI case is doomed. Attacking the validity of the checkpoint is just one on the many pieces of a DWI case that must be attacked by your defense attorney. The checkpoint just gets the police past the first hurdle which is the initial stop. The officer must now be able to articulate a reason to further investigate the driver. Some of the reasons for further investigation may include the officer smelling alcoholic beverages in the vehicle or on the person driving or seeing a container of alcohol in the vehicle. Once the officer has found some reason to extend the stop for further investigation, they will now move into a more traditional DWI stop. The officers will likely conduct a PBT (portable breath test) to see if the driver appears to have any alcohol in their system.  If alcohol is present, the officer will likely move on to the standard field sobriety test such as the HGN, walk and turn, and the one leg stand. At this point, the officer must make the decision to let the person go or to arrest the person for suspicion of DWI. If you are arrested, you will likely be taken to the police station to preform a breath test on an intoximeter to determine your blood alcohol level.

What do I do if I was arrested at a sobriety checkpoint?

The first thing to do after your arrest is to contact an experienced DWI lawyer. Here at wh Law, we have a team of defense attorneys ready to fight for your rights. We have several former prosecutors who know how to protect your freedom and provide you with experienced and aggressive representation. If you have been arrested for a DWI or DUI, call us today.

About the Author

Degen D. Clow


Degen Clow joined wh Law in 2015 after serving as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for several years in Pulaski County. During that time, he spent almost every day in court, which he now considers his office away from the office. He developed confidence and, most importantly, learned what it takes to beat a criminal charge. Before law school, Degen graduated from…

View Full Profile