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Are sobriety checkpoints legal in Colorado?

| Jan 24, 2020 | Uncategorized |

If you regularly drive in Weld County or around Northern Colorado, you may think that rural roadways insulate you from DUI enforcement. That is not the case, though. On the contrary, both state and local law enforcement agencies regularly look for intoxicated drivers in both urban and isolated areas. Eventually, you may find yourself sitting beside the road with flashing lights in your rearview mirror. 

While many drunk driving arrests involve only one vehicle, DUI checkpoints are legal in the Centennial State, provided that they are fair and not too intrusive. The Colorado Department of Transportation has a sobriety checkpoint manual to guide enforcement agencies in the legal administration of sobriety checkpoints. Here are some highlights: 

Intrusiveness 

For a checkpoint to pass legal muster, it must not overly inconvenience motorists, pedestrians or others. Typically, officers may only stop a vehicle at a checkpoint long enough to determine if the driver has had too much to drink or is violating other laws, such as having marijuana or an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. Officers must also have a consistent and non-discriminatory method for deciding which vehicles to stop. 

Safety 

Stopping vehicles on the side of a major highway may be inherently dangerous. Therefore, when conducting a legal sobriety checkpoint, officers must take steps to safeguard their safety and the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians. For example, you should have a well-lit, secure place to stop your vehicle. 

Warning

In Colorado, legal sobriety checkpoints do not randomly pop up. Instead, officers must give approaching motorists some warning. They also should publicize the locations of upcoming checkpoints. You can check CDOT’s news page for planned sites. Major holidays, such as Independence Day and New Year’s Eve, and drinking days, like Super Bowl Sunday and St. Patrick’s Day, are popular times for officers to erect sobriety checkpoints. 

Drinking and driving is never a brilliant idea. After all, Colorado has some tough penalties for DUI offenders. By understanding when and how law enforcement agencies erect sobriety checkpoints, you can better plan for staying out of trouble.