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1. NEVER try to turn around to avoid a roadblock.
One of the surest ways to get yourself into trouble is to try to pull a U-turn or duck off onto a side street once you visibly see a roadblock. Police know what you’re up to, and often they are already prepared for people who try to give roadblocks the slip. They will see you and you’re almost certain to get pulled over. Even if you are completely sober, it’s in your best interest to follow through the roadblock rather than try to pull a fast one on the police. They won’t hesitate to write you a ticket for illegal U-turns.
2. Keep your cool.
It’s very important that you don’t panic when you approach a roadblock. Everyone knows that being stopped by the police is a stressful experience, regardless of what you’ve done. Try taking a number of deep breaths and collect yourself and your documentation. Fumbling around in the car trying to get your license out will make you look bad and could be misinterpreted by the police. But most importantly, BREATHE.
3. You have the right to remain silent.
Everyone hears this phrase at some point in their life, whether from an actual policeman or from TV, movies, etc. But seriously, you do have the right to remain silent. And you should. It’s safe to assume when you’re approaching a roadblock that the officers you will encounter are going to ask you a lot of questions. They will want to know where you’ve been, where you’re going, have you had anything to drink, if so how much, and the list goes on. This small talk is not meant for them to be buddy- buddy with you; their interest is public safety and these questions can help them build a case against you depending on your answers. We recommend that you remain very polite throughout the encounter and remember this key question, “Am I free to leave?” Ask them this after you have kept your comments to a minimum. When they do grant your request, leave immediately and drive very carefully through the roadblock.
4. You do NOT have to stand on one leg and count to 30.
This is one of only three field sobriety tests that are nationally approved by the NHTSA. The other two are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus ( the eye test) and the “walk in a straight line heel to toe and turn around” test. All three are designed for failure, but there is good news! You’re not required to participate in these field tests. In truth, these tests are at times difficult for people to complete even when they are 100% sober. You have the right to refuse these tests without consequence. However, it’s very important to understand that a breath test, or breathalyzer, is NOT one of these tests you can refuse without consequence. You do have the right to refuse a breathalyzer at a roadblock, but the officer also has the right to arrest you without proof from a breath test if there is probable cause. Once you’re taken into custody, refusing further breath or BAC (blood alcohol content) tests will result in steep penalties. For example, you are almost guaranteed to lose your license for at least a year if you don’t submit to a BAC test once they take you in.
5. If they ask to search your vehicle, you CAN say no.
During your encounter with the officer at a roadblock, he or she is likely to ask you if they can take a look through your car. This is another tool for officers trying to build a potential case, however you are legally allowed to refuse their request. They may try to give you a hard time and threaten you with “the easy way or the hard way”. Don’t fall for it. The easy way is simply you giving in and consenting to the search. If you don’t want them going through your car, refuse their request and they might just give up on it altogether. If they won’t back down, the “hard way” requires them to obtain a search warrant from a judge with enough probable cause for the judge to OK it. All in all, it’s a much harder process for them than it is for you.
There are some pretty simple steps to take when approaching a roadblock that will help you get through the ordeal with minimal stress. The first and most important thing to remember is that once you see the roadblock, it’s already too late to avoid it. Trying to turn around or taking a side street will only make you look guilty, and officers are often waiting on the getaway roads for people trying to sneak off. Once you know you’re heading into a roadblock, BREATHE. We can’t stress this one enough, taking some deep breaths and collecting yourself mentally will make the whole process easier. Collect your identification on your way to the stop and have it readily available. Once the encounter begins, don’t say too much. Police will tell you that the number of people who talk their way out of trouble is close to none. Keep your answers concise, but always remain polite. When the questions run their course or there is a chance, ask “Am I free to leave?”. As soon as you get a yes, drive immediately and carefully through the roadblock. If an officer asks you to take a field sobriety test, you are legally allowed to refuse with no consequence. However, a BAC test, AKA a breath test or breathalyzer, does not apply to these rules. If you refuse a breath test, you may face penalties such as losing your license. And lastly, don’t fall for the “easy way or hard way” car search. You can refuse their access to searching your car. It will take a big effort on their part to get a warrant to search your vehicle. All in all, we hope that if you keep these tips in mind next time you find yourself at a roadblock. Please let us know what other situations you would like Cansino Blanchette Law Firm to Cover!