Can officers legally stop you for avoiding a DWI checkpoint?

To stop a motor vehicle, officers usually must at least have reasonable suspicion the driver is violating some law. That is not the case with sobriety checkpoints, however. Provided officers stop all or a random sample of vehicles, DWI checkpoints are usually legal in the Tar Heel State.

If you are approaching a sobriety roadblock, you may wonder if you can legally turn to avoid it. That is, can officers stop your vehicle only because you chose not to proceed through the checkpoint?

The State v. Foreman decision

In 2000, the Supreme Court of North Carolina answered the question.

In State v. Foreman, a driver made a legal turn to avoid a DWI roadblock. Then, an officer left the roadblock and stopped the vehicle. After the stop, prosecutors charged the driver with a driving while impaired and other criminal offenses.

The court held that it is reasonable for officers to monitor the entrance to DWI checkpoints. If a driver turns immediately before the checkpoint, officers likely have reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle.

Your checkpoint strategy

Before ever encountering a DWI checkpoint, you should have a strategy for dealing with one.

To not raise the suspicion of officers, you probably want to approach the checkpoint slowly. Then, have your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance ready to present to officers.

You are under no legal obligation to engage in a long conversation with officers at a sobriety roadblock. Saying as little as possible and not volunteering information are often effective ways to move through a DWI roadblock without incident.