Roadside Checkpoints: Can You Turn Around?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Dec 09, 2016 | 0 Comments

Roadside checkpoints are a common way for law enforcement to catch intoxicated drivers. Police departments set up checkpoints all year round but certain holidays, such as the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve, tend to see a greater amount of enforcement efforts. Instead of going through a DUI checkpoint, you may want to turn around in order to avoid the hassle and the extra time the checkpoint may take. However, you may be hesitant to do this for fear that the police will believe that you are only turning to avoid the checkpoint.

The Georgia courts have previously addressed this issue and these cases can provide some guidance on this matter. Talk to a Forsyth County DUI Lawyer today. 

In Jorgensen v. State, a police officer at a roadblock observed the defendant, David Jorgensen, turn into the entrance of an apartment complex that was located just before the roadblock. Going on his intuition, the officer, Steve Seawell, then decided to follow Jorgensen and stopped him as he exited his vehicle. The officer administered a field sobriety test on Jorgensen, which showed that Jorgensen had a BAC of .14 grams. He was charged and convicted of driving under the influence. On appeal, he asserted that "the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence seized because the officer lacked probable cause or an articulable suspicion that a crime had been committed by the appellant at the time of the unlawful stop."

The appellate court agreed. The court stated that "[a]lthough an officer may conduct a brief investigative stop of a vehicle . . . such a stop must be justified by specific, articulable facts sufficient to give rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct." A mere "hunch" is not enough of a reason to conduct an investigative stop. The court stated that "[i]t is undisputed that the appellant [Jorgensen] did not commit a traffic offense or otherwise violate the law" when he was stopped by Seawell. Because Seawell offered no reason for pulling Jorgenson over, other than his intuition, the court held that "the stop by the officer violated the appellant's Fourth Amendment rights and the evidence acquired as a result of the unlawful stop was improperly admitted by the trial judge."

In Terry v. State, the defendant, Jason Terry, turned around just before a checkpoint on the University of West Georgia's campus. A police officer saw this and pulled him over. The reasons the officer gave for pulling Terry over are as follows: "first, his suspicions were aroused because he believed Terry had taken evasive actions to avoid the roadblock; second, Terry's backing of his vehicle into the roadway had been improper because, in doing so, he had blocked both lanes of travel."

Terry was subsequently arrested for DUI. Like Jorgensen, he had moved to suppress the evidence that had been gathered at the stop arguing that the officer had no reason to pull him over. The trial court disagreed with Terry, as did the appellate court on review. The Court of Appeals stated that "'abnormal or unusual actions taken to avoid a roadblock may give an officer a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity even when the evasive action is not illegal,'" and that "an officer's honest belief that a traffic violation has been committed in his presence, even if ultimately proven incorrect, may nevertheless demonstrate the existence of at least an articulable suspicion and reasonable grounds for the stop.'" The court held that the officer "was authorized to conclude that in turning off the roadway, engaging in a possibly illegal backing maneuver, and then driving away in the opposite direction, Terry was attempting to avoid the road check."

Thus, in general, you are allowed to turn around to avoid a roadside checkpoint. It is important to note, however, that if you make an illegal turn or a police officer has reasonable ground to believe that you are turning solely to avoid being arrested, you may be pulled over anyway.

If you or a loved one has been charged with driving under the influence, contact Forsyth County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today to discuss your case. 

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Richard S. Lawson is passionate about intoxicated driving defense. Unlike some attorneys, Mr. Lawson devotes 100% of his legal practice to helping people stand up for their rights against DUI charges. For more than 20 years, Mr. Lawson has dutifully fought for his clients' freedom, resolving more 4,900 impaired driving cases during the course of his career. Today, Mr. Lawson has developed a reputation as a skilled negotiator and continues to help clients by fighting to keep them out of jail.


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