Challenging "DUI Checkpoints" in Las Vegas, Nevada

Updated


DUI checkpoints in Nevada are sobriety roadblocks where police check motorists for drunk or drugged driving. Once a driver arrives at a checkpoint, the driver must stop, answer the police's questions, and comply with their requests. Drivers may leave only when the police give the okay.

If the police smell alcohol or detect impairment, they may ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests (FSTs) and take a preliminary breath test. Drivers who the officers suspect are intoxicated or high get arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).

Law enforcement typically set up DUI checkpoints on high-traffic roadways over holiday weekends. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) often gives advanced notice of when these checkpoints will be.

Upcoming DUI checkpoints

There are no current or upcoming DUI checkpoints. Check back here or our twitter feed or facebook page for updates.

Nevada's most recent sobriety checkpoints include:

Sunday, February 2, 2020

"DUI blitz" throughout Las Vegas

Thursday, September 26, 2019

E Charleston Blvd. and N Nellis Blvd.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Tropicana Ave. and S. Mountain Vista St.

Saturday, June 21, 2019

Summer Pl and NV-207 - Kingsbury (Stateline)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

S Eastern Ave. and E. Windmill Ln.

Sunday, February 3, 2019 from 5 pm - 3 am (Super Bowl Sunday)

near Rainbow Blvd. and Charleston Blvd.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

W Russell Rd and S Buffalo Dr

Thursday, November 1, 2018 from 7 pm - 4 am

Southwest Las Vegas on S Buffalo Dr and W Flamingo Rd

Saturday, September 1, 2018 from 8 am - 5 pm

Southeast Las Vegas on Maryland Pkwy

Friday, June 15, 2018

N Las Vegas Blvd and E Cheyenne Ave

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Vegas Dr and N Rancho Dr Area

Saturday, May 13, 2017

E Tropicana Ave and Paradise Rd, Las Vegas

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Frank Sinatra Dr and Reno Ave, Las Vegas

Friday, March 24, 2017

Titanium Ave and Harrison Dr., Lovelock

Friday, March 17, 2017

E Tropicana Ave and Paradise Rd, Las Vegas

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Blue Diamond Rd and S Decatur Blvd, Las Vegas

Penalties

Driving through a sobriety checkpoint without stopping is a gross misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is:

  • 364 days in jail, and/or
  • $2,000 in fines

But if the driver causes death, substantial bodily harm, or more than $1,000 in property damage, the driver faces category B felony charges. The sentence is:

Defenses

It may be possible to get checkpoint violation charges reduced or dismissed by arguing these defenses:

  1. The driver followed the police's directions,
  2. The checkpoint was not legal, and/or
  3. The police committed misconduct

In this article our Las Vegas drunk driving defense attorneys discuss:

A Las Vegas DUI checkpoint
Driving through a DUI sobriety checkpoint without stopping is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada.

1. What is the definition of DUI checkpoints in Nevada?

Las Vegas DUI checkpoints are cordoned-off areas of road where police stop every driver to check whether they are under the influence. All drivers going through the checkpoints get stopped, not only those exhibiting signs of intoxication. Then police arrest the motorists they believe are driving drunk or driving under the influence of drugs.1

The LVMPD typically sets up DUI checkpoints in high-traffic areas during holiday weekends or special events when heavy drinking goes on.2 Examples include:

  • New Year's Eve
  • Super Bowl Weekend
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Fourth of July
  • Halloween

The purpose of DUI checkpoints is to deter intoxicated driving. These checkpoints also go by the names:

  • Sobriety checkpoints,
  • Drunk driving sobriety checkpoints,
  • DUI roadblocks, and
  • DUI administrative roadblocks

Sometimes, police at roadblocks do not stop every car but every fourth car, or every license plate that starts with an even number, etc. Any predetermined formula for detaining drivers is allowed as long as it is not in any way discriminatory.

2. How do they work?

When a person is driving into a sobriety checkpoint, the officers will stop the driver and ask some questions like, "Have you been drinking?" If it is nighttime, officers usually shine a flashlight into the vehicle to see if the driver is transporting alcohol in violation of Nevada's open container laws (NRS 484B.150).

If the driver seems sober, the officers will allow the driver to continue through the checkpoint. But if the officers reasonably suspect that the driver is exhibiting intoxicated behavior, the driver will be directed to a nearby area for tests. Examples of impaired behavior include:

  • Bad driving,
  • An odor of alcohol on the driver's breath,
  • Open or empty alcohol containers,
  • Bloodshot or glassy eyes, or
  • Slurred speech patterns

The police may ask the driver to take a preliminary breath test (PBT) and perform FSTs, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus, one-legged stand and walk and turn. Depending on the results, the driver may be arrested for driving under the influence.

Even if the driver is not intoxicated, he/she could still be cited for other traffic violations, such as driving without a valid license (NRS 483.230) or driving on a suspended license (NRS 483.560)

DUI checkpoint night
DUI checkpoints are an exception to the "probable cause" rule.

3. Are they legal?

Yes, if the DUI checkpoint is administered properly. In order for a roadblock to be valid in Nevada, law enforcement must follow the following four rules:

  1. The checkpoint must be clearly visible to approaching traffic from 100 yards away;
  2. A "Stop" sign must be placed near the centerline of the highway that is readable from 50 yards away;
  3. A flashing red light at the side of the highway must be clearly visible to oncoming traffic 100 yards away; and
  4. There must be warning signs at the side of the highway at least a quarter-mile from the roadblock to notify oncoming traffic about it. Additionally, these signs must be accompanied by a burning beam light, flare or lantern to attract attention.3

If police fail to follow these protocols, the defendant's charges for driving through a roadblock may be reduced or dismissed.

3.1. Checkpoints are not legal in every state

Currently, the following states prohibit sobriety checkpoints: Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Wyoming, and Wisconsin. Montana permits only "safety spot" checks. And Alaska does not conduct roadblocks because there is no state law authorizing it.4

4. Is there advanced notice of Las Vegas DUI checkpoints?

Las Vegas police may set up roadblocks without publicizing it first. The checkpoint signs that are readable from 100 yards away are supposed to serve as a sufficient warning.5

However, law enforcement often does disclose DUI checkpoints a few days in advance. The LVMPD posts press releases about checkpoints here.

5. Where do police commonly set up checkpoints?

Police may set up sobriety roadblocks on nearly any public road. Ten streets where the LVMPD has recently put DUI checkpoints are:

  1. Blue Diamond Rd.
  2. Buffalo Dr.
  3. Decatur Blvd.
  4. Frank Sinatra Dr.
  5. Maryland Pkwy.
  6. N. Nellis Blvd.
  7. Paradise Rd.
  8. Russell Ave.
  9. Tropicana Ave.
  10. Vegas Dr.

6. What are the penalties for driving through DUI checkpoints without stopping?

DUI checkpoint sign

Traveling through a Nevada administrative DUI roadblock without stopping is a gross misdemeanor carrying penalties of:

  • Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • Up to $2,000 in fines

But if illegally driving through the roadblock results in death, substantial bodily harm or damage to property in excess of $1,000, the driver faces category B felony charges. The punishment includes:

  • One to six (1 - 6) years in prison, and/or
  • Up to $5,000 in fines6

Depending on the case, the defendant may face drunk or drugged driving charges as well. See our article about Nevada DUI penalties.

6.1. Can I turn around if I see a checkpoint in the distance?

Yes. If a driver sees warning signs of an upcoming DUI checkpoint in Nevada, the driver is allowed to take any legal detour prior to that checkpoint to avoid going through it. But the driver may not make an illegal U-turn (NRS 484B.403) or an improper turn (NRS 484B.400) in order to escape a roadblock.7

7. What are common defenses to DUI checkpoint arrests?

Three common defenses to fight DUI checkpoint charges include:

  1. The driver followed the officer's directions,
  2. The checkpoint was not legal, and/or
  3. The police committed misconduct

7.1. The driver followed the officer's directions

Anyone who has been through a roadblock knows they are chaotic. There are hundreds of cars moving at a slow pace while a dozen or so officers scramble to check every driver.

With so many cars, the police may have trouble keeping straight which drivers have been given the green light to leave, and sometimes there is miscommunication between the officers. Drivers may find themselves arrested for disobeying an officer or driving through a checkpoint when in fact they did nothing wrong.

As long as the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated the law, the charge should be dropped.

7.2. The checkpoint was not legal

DUI checkpoint officers
Drivers may not violate traffic laws to avoid going through a DUI checkpoint in Nevada.

Checkpoints are valid only if they have the proper signage and signals visible from the proper distances (see question 3 for more information).

If the defense attorney can demonstrate that the police fell short while administering a sobriety checkpoint, the case should be dismissed. A defense attorney would rely on photographs, surveillance video, and eyewitness testimony in an effort to show the roadblock violated Nevada law.

7.3. The police engaged in misconduct

Once a driver stops at a DUI checkpoint, police have to follow the same rules they do during normal traffic stops. This includes asking questions, if necessary performing a preliminary breath test, and possibly administering field sobriety tests.

If the police cut corners and then arrest a person for violating NRS 484B.580, a defense attorney may be able to persuade the D.A. to drop the charges. Video footage from dash cams, body cams, or smartphones often serves as helpful evidence of police mistakes.

Currently, it is not a defense to argue that DUI checkpoints are unconstitutional. Police stopping drivers with no probable cause seems like an unlawful search and seizure. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that correctly administered roadblocks are consistent with the Fourth Amendment.8 

8. Can the criminal record be sealed?

It depends on whether the case was prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor or felony, and whether the defendant was convicted or not:

Disobeying a Nevada DUI checkpoint Record Seal wait time

Class B felony conviction

5 years after the case ends

Gross Misdemeanor conviction

2 years after the case ends

Dismissal

Immediately

Note that a misdemeanor DUI conviction has a seven (7) year waiting period for a record seal, whether or not a checkpoint was involved. And felony DUI convictions may never be sealed.9

702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673)
Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation.

Call us if you have been charged . . . .

Whether or not your DUI arrest occurred at a Nevada checkpoint, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys can help. In many cases, we can get DUI charges reduced or dismissed due to police misconduct and other technicalities. Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation today.

Arrested in California? Refer to our informational article on California sobriety checkpoints.

Arrested in Colorado? Refer to our informational article on Colorado sobriety checkpoints.


Legal References:

  1. NRS 484B.570.
  2. See, e.g., Austin Carter, 23 drivers arrested at DUI checkpoint on Super Bowl Sunday, KTNV Channel 13 ABC (February 2019)
  3. NRS 484B.570.
  4. Motor Vehicle Safety Intervention Fact Sheets, CDC.
  5. NRS 484B.570; see, e.g. Austin Carter, DUI Strike Team makes hundreds of arrests in 2019, KTNV Channel 13 ABC (January 2, 2020).
  6. NRS 484B.580.
  7. See id.
  8. Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990).
  9. NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.

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