Police are not allowed to pull over drivers without probable cause that they are under the influence or committed another crime. But there is one big exception to this rule . . . Nevada DUI sobriety checkpoints.
Las Vegas police routinely set up drunk driving checkpoints over holiday weekends and during special events in high-traffic areas. At these sobriety checkpoints, police are allowed to stop and arrest you for driving under the influence even if you were driving safely and would not have been pulled over otherwise. But if the checkpoint was not set up properly, then drivers arrested or cited at the checkpoint may be able to get the charges dropped.
What are Nevada DUI Checkpoints?
Also called sobriety checkpoints, drunk driving sobriety checkpoints or DUI roadblocks, Nevada DUI checkpoints are cordoned-off areas on public roads where police can legally stop drivers for no reason and then investigate whether they are under the influence. The supposed purpose of DUI checkpoints is to deter drunk driving.
How do Nevada DUI Checkpoints work?
When you are driving through a Las Vegas sobriety checkpoint, the officers will probably ask you some questions and shine a flashlight into your car to see if you are transporting open alcohol containers. If they believe you are exhibiting intoxicated behavior, you will be directed to a nearby area to take a preliminary breath test (PBT) and perform DUI field sobriety tests (FSTs), such as the Nevada horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Depending on the results, you may be arrested for driving under the influence or be allowed to leave.
Are Nevada DUI Checkpoints legal?
Only if they are administered properly, and often they are not. In order for an administrative roadblock like a Las Vegas DUI sobriety checkpoint to be valid, law enforcement must follow these strict rules and guidelines:
- The checkpoint must be established on a highway clearly visible to approaching traffic at a distance of no less than 100 yards in either direction.
- A sign must be placed near the centerline of the highway displaying the word "Stop" in letters large enough and bright enough to be readable at a distance of no less than 50 yards in either direction.
- The checkpoint must have at least one flashing red light at the side of the highway, also clearly visible to oncoming traffic at a distance of no less than 100 yards.
- Warning signs must be placed at the side of the highway no less than a quarter mile from the roadblock so oncoming traffic are notified that a police stop lies ahead. The signage has to be big and bright enough so drivers can see it, and a burning beam light, flare or lantern must be placed near the signs to attract attention. (NRS 484B.570)
If you were arrested at a Las Vegas DUI roadblock and your attorney can show that the police failed to follow any or all of these notice protocols, your case may be dismissed irrespective of whether you were driving under the influence.
Is law enforcement required to publicize Nevada checkpoints in the media?
No. However, law enforcement usually does inform the media about planned DUI checkpoints in Nevada especially if they are being set up during holiday weekends or special events.
Is it illegal to drive through a Nevada DUI checkpoint without stopping?
If you are driving and you see warning signs of an upcoming DUI checkpoint, you are allowed to take any legal detour prior to that checkpoint to avoid going through it. But once you arrive at a checkpoint, you must answer the cops' questions and comply with their requests before you will be allowed to drive away.
The penalties for traveling through a Nevada administrative DUI roadblock without stopping or for disobeying the officers' orders include the following:
- If no death, substantial bodily harm or damage to property in excess of $1,000 occurs, the driver may be charged with a gross misdemeanor carrying up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines.
- Otherwise, the driver will be charged with a category B felony carrying 1 to six years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines. (NRS 484B.580)
Call us if you have been charge with Nevada DUI . . . .
Whether or not your DUI arrest occurred at a Nevada checkpoint, our Las Vegas DUI Defense attorneys have years of experience in getting drunk driving cases reduced to lesser charges or dismissed completely often based on technicalities or police misconduct. Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation today.
To learn about California sobriety checkpoints, go to our informational article on California sobriety checkpoints.