Checkpoints, checkpoints, checkpoints. It's Summer and the temperature has turned hot. It seems every year that as the temperature rises the cities' desires for checkpoints also increase. We just had one here recently in Kansas City, Missouri where hundreds of driver's were stopped, but only a handful of people were actually arrested. It's because checkpoints aren't particularly effective. Studies show that police officers make many more arrests if they simply go out and patrol randomly looking for bad driving.
Checkpoints have other drawbacks as well, specifically they are dangerous. They are dangerous for the drivers and they are dangerous for the police officers standing on the side of the road. If you find yourself in a checkpoint, please be very careful. Often, the lighting is poor and the directions are equally poor. It makes it difficult for drivers to know where they are supposed to navigate among the cones scattered along the road. Watch carefully, and be certain to listen to the directions of the police officers that you encounter. However, remember that your rights are still intact.
Checkpoints are basically unconstitutional, but the various state courts have found that they will overlook this unconstitutionally in the interest of public safety. They will only do this if certain efforts are made by the police to follow a laundry list of requirements for a checkpoint. Those requirements are different in each state, but there are a number of similarities. These checkpoints must be planned in advance, they must be announced in advance, the officers must have guidelines to follow, the checkpoint must be clearly marked, and the officers must not be allowed broad discretion in deciding which car to stop. In other word, everyone needs to be treated the same.
If you find yourself stopped in a checkpoint, please remember that your rights remain intact. The officer will usually ask for your driver's license and you will need to produce that. Beyond that, it's up to you whether or not your want to cooperate. I'm not suggesting that you be rude or refuse to get out of your car, but don't give up any information that you don't have to and don't take any test that you're not required to take. Remember the field sobriety tests are not mandated by law. At least in Kansas and Missouri, it's not illegal to refuse the field tests and I recommend that you do.
Field tests are those tests that are conducted in the field which include the walk and turn test, the one leg stand test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the alphabet test, the numbers test, the finger to nose test, finger counting test, and any other sort of Simon Says or dexterity type test. In Kansas and Missouri you can receive a fine for refusing the preliminary breath test (the portable handheld unit), but it's not a crime to refuse. Be careful though. There are serious consequences to refusing the larger breath test. The larger breath test and that rules that go with it can often be confused for the preliminary breath test.
In Kansas, the larger breath test will always be used with a larger machine. Specifically, they will use the Intoxilizer 8000 or ask that you take a blood test. However, in Missouri, it's a little trickier. In Missouri, officers are allowed to use a PBT for the evidentiary breath test. But, that PBT must be bench mounted and come with a printer. If they ask you to take a test from a machine that they are simply holding in their hand as you are standing outside, then that test should not count against your license (but it will give them probable cause to arrest you). I would recommend that if you are stopped in Missouri and you are asked to take a breath test, then ask if whether refusing that test will have any will have any impact on your driver's license. If the officer is truthful, and they usually are when directly questioned, then you will be told that the PBT does not affect your license.
If you've been stopped at a checkpoint in Kansas or Missouri, you need good legal advice. Please feel free to call our attorney, Paul W. Burmaster at our Law Office at 913-648-1464 or
816-561-0706. If you are asked to take a breath test in Missouri, you have the opportunity to call an attorney before you make that decision. Please feel free to call Mr. Burmaster on his cell at
913-220-5464. Remember, if you've been arrested or charged with a
DWI, you need experienced legal help. Please call Paul Burmaster now for afree consultation.