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What you need to know about sobriety checkpoints

Also called a DWI roadblock, a sobriety checkpoint is a temporary setup that law enforcement uses to catch possible drunk drivers. You could come upon one of these at any time, but such installations are popular during holidays such as Labor Day when there are many social functions complete with alcoholic beverages.

If you have never stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, here is what you can expect when you see flashing lights and a string of cars up ahead.

Where checkpoints are located

You will find St. Louis checkpoints set up on the main roads, as well as on side streets. Due to safety concerns, authorities typically do not set them up on interstates, but you may see them on the entrance and exit ramps.

When you approach

Law enforcement typically sets up DWI roadblocks in such a way that it is nearly impossible to avoid them without breaking a traffic law. By design, they box you in, making you join the line of cars. While waiting, you may wonder what you should say to the officer. Keep in mind that you should never lie to the authorities. However, that does not mean you should admit to the beers you had at the party you just left.

At the stop

The state or local law enforcement officer may explain why he or she has stopped you and ask to see your driver's license and registration. Have these ready to hand over. If he or she asks any other questions, you can decline to answer, but do so politely. The questions may seem harmless, but if the officer does arrest you for driving under the influence, remember that the authorities can use anything you say against you. The less you say, the more difficult it will be for the officer to find probable cause to request roadside tests or arrest you.

You do have the option to refuse to take the portable breath test, but it might result in your being taken to the police station. Many people exercise their right to talk to an attorney before consenting to a breath test.

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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