In 2017 a Missouri law essentially defunded sobriety checkpoints, so they are not as common as they once were. Although checkpoints are not completely extinct, “saturation patrols” have largely taken their place. Through this, the police department uses officers to patrol areas which have a high risk of drunk driving. Even though checkpoints are less common, it is still important to know your rights and what to do if you end up in a sobriety checkpoint situation.
In Missouri, sobriety checkpoints are an exception to the first probable cause rule previously listed (the officer needs probable cause to pull you over). At sobriety checkpoints the police may stop every car that goes by or randomly pick cars, without probable cause. Besides this first point, all of the other rules required for a legal arrest are applicable.
It is important to keep in mind that, although the probable cause requirement is waived for pulling you over, it is not waived for the second point (the officer still needs probable cause in order to further investigate you for a DWI or DUI). This means that the police cannot search your vehicle at a DWI checkpoint, unless (1) they have probable cause to do so (i.e. you admitting to drinking alcohol, smell of alcohol, slurred speech, alcoholic containers in plain view, etc.) or (2) you consent to allowing the officer search your vehicle.
If you are stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, be polite but say as little as possible. Do not answer an officer’s “Have you been drinking tonight?” question, unless you can truthfully say no. Don’t even say “not that much” or “only one drink,” because even the slightest admission of consuming alcohol will be used against you. You are not required to allow police to search your vehicle at a checkpoint. You are also not required to submit to any sobriety field tests. Lastly, you are not required to submit to any breath or urine tests for blood alcohol content, however, your refusal could result in an automatic one-year suspension of your license.
Sobriety checkpoints can be very intimidating. However, even if you did consent to a search, admit to anything, or your BAC was over the legal limit – an experienced attorney may still be able to get your charge reduced or even dismissed.