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Should you worry about sobriety checkpoints during the holidays?

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2022 | DUI/OWI

Family get-togethers and other holiday celebrations can sometimes lead to bad choices. Family members might get into physical fights with one another or drink too much to drown out their frustration at needing to interact with their parents and siblings all day.

There is a known association between holiday celebrations and increased drunk driving risk. The weekends around major holidays, including Thanksgiving and New Year’s day, tend to see a noteworthy uptick in alcohol-related collisions. Law enforcement agencies are therefore often out in full force on the days and weekends around major holidays.

Will you have to worry about encountering a sobriety checkpoint on the Iowa roads?

Iowa does not permit sobriety checkpoints

Some people feel like sobriety checkpoints are a violation of their rights. Although the federal Supreme Court has ruled that sobriety checkpoints are constitutional, every state can set its own policies. Drivers in Iowa don’t have to worry about encountering checkpoints established solely for screening drivers for chemical impairment.

Iowa state law does permit the use of checkpoints to inspect vehicles for registration and insurance, as well as to enforce wildlife protection laws and check people for hunting and fishing licenses. Police departments must have both proper training and paperwork to conduct such checkpoints.

Drunk driving roadblocks or sobriety checkpoints are not permissible under Iowa law. Police officers can not shut down a road just to screen all the drivers passing through for impairment.

Could you get arrested at another checkpoint for drunk driving?

While officers may conduct a checkpoint for a legal purpose, they could end up suspecting you of drunk driving during their brief interaction with you at that checkpoint. Although the point of a checkpoint may be to look for wildlife infractions, police officers who have probable cause based on their brief interaction with you to suspect impairment can potentially detain you, request chemical testing and arrest you.

Knowing the law helps you protect yourself. Since police officers do not have the right to indiscriminately screen drivers for chemical impairment, you can use that information to better assert your rights if you encounter a checkpoint.

Understanding and complying with the traffic and alcohol laws in Iowa will drastically limit your chances of facing drunk driving charges or other criminal allegations.