STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Here’s what you need to know if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, and why Huntsville does them

In an effort to cut down on drunk driving and save lives, officers perform several DUI checkpoints throughout the year.

Posted: Feb 17, 2020 9:01 PM
Updated: Feb 18, 2020 11:36 PM

In an effort to cut down on drunk driving and save lives, officers perform several DUI checkpoints throughout the year.

WAAY 31 spoke with a supervisor with the DUI task force to learn more about their role, and a local attorney to find out your rights.

"Nothing prepares you for going to knock on someone's door at 2 in the morning and changing that family's life forever. Let them know the loved one is not coming home," said Sgt. Michael Nelson, a DUI task force supervisor.

That's one reason Nelson is on patrol for drunk drivers. He is one of eight officers who make up Huntsville's DUI task force.

"To protect themselves from themselves and protect them from hurting other people if they are impaired," he said.

One way officers do that is with checkpoints. They will ask for your drivers license, proof of insurance and registration for your vehicle.

"We are checking for those three things to see if there is any clues of impairment that we are seeing that leads us to pull you off the side of the road and run you through those field sobriety tests," said Nelson.

What else do you need to know if you're stopped at a checkpoint? WAAY 31 took that question to DUI defense attorney George Flowers. He has been practicing law for about 20 years.

"A person always has a right to refuse anything that they don't want to do, you are never compelled to do anything," said Flowers.

Alabama is an implied consent state. That means any person who operates a vehicle within the state is deemed to have consented to a blood, breath, or urine test to measure blood alcohol content. However, all field sobriety tests are voluntary. You are not under any legal obligation to submit to any field sobriety tests.

"There is no criminal penalties, or civil penalties for refusing the roadside tests," said Flowers.

However, Flowers warns, "When a person refuses the roadside test, an officer is typically going to make his judgement call there and when a person refuses, they are probably going to presume everything against the person at that point."

In most cases, you can refuse the Breathalyzer as a passenger.

Flowers told WAAY 31 police shouldn't even ask.

DUI laws only apply to the driver.

If an officer asks to search your car, you can refuse.

Police never need your consent and won't ask if they have a legal ground to perform their search.

Refusal to allow a search is not probable cause and is not a reason for you to be detained.

"We are not trying to infringe on anyone's rights, we are not going to unlawfully search someones vehicle," said Sgt. Nelson.

If there is reason to suspect you are armed and dangerous, the officer can pat you down, or in other words, frisk you. Officers must confine frisks to the suspect's outer clothing. Alabama is an open carry state but it's illegal in a vehicle without a concealed carry license.

Nelson said drivers take extreme measures to cover up they're drinking.

"Sometimes people will try to mask the odor that they are omitting such as popping a piece of gum, doing some Listerine, maybe smoking two or three cigarettes at one time just to get the nicotine and smoke odor in the car to cover the alcohol smell or anything else that's going on, to try and defer out attention to something else," said Nelson.

Nelson would rather make an arrest than allow a suspected drunk driver to continue on their way and possibly take a life. He told WAAY 31 throughout his career he has notified 48 families their loved ones where killed by a drunk driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 268 drunk-driving deaths in Alabama in 2017.

Alabama ranks 5th in the nation for drunk driving related deaths.

Huntsville
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 51°
Florence
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 54°
Fayetteville
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 50°
Decatur
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 47°
Scottsboro
Scattered Clouds
48° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 48°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 131405

Reported Deaths: 2292
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19123337
Mobile13122290
Montgomery8688173
Madison763075
Tuscaloosa7323114
Lee575159
Shelby571950
Baldwin508749
Marshall387943
Calhoun337439
Etowah336547
Morgan321426
Houston272722
Elmore255847
DeKalb237119
St. Clair224335
Walker224380
Talladega207726
Limestone200119
Cullman186218
Dallas174926
Franklin174528
Russell17312
Autauga169124
Lauderdale165333
Colbert160926
Escambia156425
Blount156014
Jackson151611
Chilton150227
Dale133343
Covington131127
Coffee12838
Pike11619
Tallapoosa113683
Chambers113242
Clarke105517
Marion94828
Butler91138
Barbour8387
Winston71612
Marengo70119
Lowndes64927
Pickens63814
Bibb63610
Randolph62212
Hale61528
Lawrence59220
Bullock59114
Geneva5814
Monroe5768
Cherokee56916
Clay5527
Washington54913
Perry5386
Wilcox53111
Conecuh52411
Crenshaw52331
Macon47820
Henry4754
Fayette4269
Sumter41819
Lamar3532
Choctaw34512
Cleburne3326
Greene30015
Coosa1653
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 184409

Reported Deaths: 2233
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30155447
Davidson26017293
Hamilton914489
Rutherford903187
Knox899872
Williamson508936
Sumner470593
Wilson337343
Putnam307037
Out of TN301324
Montgomery296243
Unassigned28916
Bradley285816
Madison270156
Sevier251813
Blount244023
Maury226023
Washington217933
Robertson217233
Sullivan205431
Hamblen183825
Tipton173917
Trousdale16517
Gibson153819
Hardeman153225
Wayne14805
Bedford130916
Dyer127912
Dickson119913
Cumberland115317
Fayette114318
Anderson113311
Henderson113119
Carter112627
Weakley111819
Loudon11156
Coffee110812
Greene110737
Obion10889
McMinn106824
Jefferson106614
Macon102020
Warren10127
Monroe100116
Lawrence97011
Hardin96714
Lauderdale93615
Haywood92116
Lake9152
Franklin9137
Bledsoe8454
Roane8414
Carroll83217
McNairy81016
Cheatham79010
White7849
Rhea78111
Hawkins77016
Cocke7349
Marshall7175
Overton6805
Smith67810
Johnson6482
Henry6029
Chester5919
Lincoln5791
Giles56817
DeKalb54611
Hickman5385
Crockett51319
Marion5007
Decatur4786
Fentress4363
Claiborne4304
Campbell4193
Polk37811
Grainger3503
Union3371
Benton3329
Jackson3055
Morgan3053
Unicoi2801
Cannon2760
Grundy2495
Humphreys2323
Sequatchie2233
Meigs2213
Clay2105
Scott2002
Houston1860
Lewis1771
Stewart1752
Moore1541
Van Buren1530
Perry1460
Hancock1063
Pickett982

Community Events