Is Avoiding a DUI Checkpoint Probable Cause to Be Pulled Over?

You’re driving home one night and suddenly you notice a ton of flashing lights up ahead. It’s a police roadblock. Maybe you’ve had a couple of drinks, or maybe you just don’t want to deal with it, so you quickly change your route.

Can this lead to more problems? Are police allowed to pull you over for avoiding a DUI checkpoint?

Every driver needs to know the answers to these questions. Here, we review what you need to know about DUI Checkpoints in Illinois.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Illinois?

In general, a “roadblock” is considered a “suspicionless stop or seizure,” which is presumed to be unconstitutional, and therefore, illegal.

However, in many states (including Illinois) police may legally set up roadblocks at predetermined intersections for the purpose of checking to see if motorists have been drinking and driving.

What Happens During a DUI Roadblock?

When you pull up to a DUI roadblock, you’ll need to roll down your window and an officer will ask you for your drivers’ license and proof of insurance. Once you provide this information, the officer must let you go, unless there’s a “reasonable suspicion” that you’ve been drinking. Examples might include smelling alcohol on your breath or seeing that you have an open can of beer in your car.

In this case, the officer may ask you to pull over and get out of the vehicle to perform standardized field sobriety tests. In some cases, the police may also have electronic warrants available so they can draw blood to test your blood alcohol levels.

If the officer has enough evidence, you’ll find yourself in the back of a police car, headed to jail. 

Can You Legally Avoid a DUI Checkpoint?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to look at the real question, can you be arrested for avoiding a DUI checkpoint? The answer to this question has actually changed over time.

In the past, making a legal U-turn or turning around to avoid a DUI checkpoint was considered sufficient suspicion for an officer to follow the car and pull the driver over.

However, the 2016 case of PEOPLE v. TIMMSEN changed this (sort of). This case began when the defendant (Timmsen) turned around 50 feet before a DUI checkpoint. He was then followed by the police, pulled over, and arrested when they discovered that his driver’s license had been revoked.

His attorney argued to suppress the evidence, but the courts ruled that the “evasive” nature of making a U-turn that closes to a checkpoint was an “unprovoked flight” which suggested wrongdoing.

The case was appealed, and the Illinois Supreme Court found that avoiding a DUI checkpoint on its own is not a sufficient reason to stop a vehicle. However, the ruling doesn’t stop there. They also applied the 4th amendment doctrine, the “totality of the circumstances.”

This means that police can look at all the circumstances, not just a single act, when determining whether they have reasonable suspicion. In this case, not only did Timmsen turn around to avoid the roadblock just 50 feet away, but it was also 1:15AM, and the roadblock was well-marked.

Although there was no law requiring him to go through the roadblock, his action gave the police officer a justifiable cause to pull him over.

So, to put this in simple language…

Is it illegal to turn around to avoid a DUI checkpoint? No.

Is there a very good chance you’ll be pulled over if you do? Yes.

Other Ways to Avoid a DUI Roadblock

Pulling a U-turn and going back the way you came is clearly not your best choice when faced with a DUI checkpoint. However, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. If you see a roadblock up ahead, your best bet is to try to turn into a gas station, or onto another road, so it doesn’t appear that you’re trying to avoid the roadblock.

Never simply pull into a random alley and park your car. This is the most suspicious act of all.

If you’re not able to avoid the roadblock, remember that although you do have to show your driver’s license and insurance, you do not have to answer any other questions. Never admit to having been drinking or discuss where you’ve been.

If you’re asked to get out of the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests, it’s important to understand your rights. Field sobriety tests are designed to give the police evidence that you’re intoxicated. The results are also subjective, as it’s up to the officer to interpret your behavior.

It’s often not in your best interest to consent to one. Instead, consider remaining polite and speaking as little as possible until you have an attorney present.

What to Do If You’re Arrested for a DUI?

Even if you take all the right precautions when faced with a DUI checkpoint, if you’ve been drinking, there’s always a chance you could be arrested for a DUI. If this happens to you, the steps you take next could impact the rest of your life.

Trying to handle it on your own is one of the biggest mistakes you could make. No matter what the circumstances are surrounding your arrest, it’s always a good idea to speak to an attorney.

Contact us today to schedule a free 30-minute consultation. We’ll listen to the details of your case, let you know what you’re likely facing, and explain how we can help.