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Know what to do at a sobriety checkpoint

It's the most wonderful time of the year, unless you're on your way home from celebrating and have to stop at a police checkpoint. Whether you've been drinking or not, you may be nervous about what to expect and what you're required to do. Extra sobriety checkpoints are often used around major holidays, so here are some tips that should help you if you encounter one.

Pay attention to local news

Police may announce where the checkpoints will be in advance, so while drinking and driving is never a good idea, if you're headed out on the town and know what roads or highways will be targeted, you can avoid them. Police may be pulling over certain vehicles based on a prearranged plan-every third car, or every other car. You can't guess what that part will be, so assume you're one of the targeted vehicles.

Once you've been stopped

While it's within your rights to turn around and leave, or turn down a side street, it's not a good idea. If you avoid the checkpoint, you're giving a police officer a reason to suspect you of operating under the influence (OUI). Your driving might be erratic simply because you're nervous, but an officer doesn't know that. Avoiding a checkpoint is a sure sign that somebody might have something to hide-or is making poor decisions because of being impaired.

What can police ask?

The purpose of the checkpoint is for officers to talk to drivers. They may also ask for your license and registration or insurance information. This gives them time to observe you, looking for signs of intoxication. If after a brief conversation (checkpoints are generally required to take a short time) an officer suspects that a driver is impaired, then you may be asked to take a Breathalyzer test or complete a field sobriety test.

Don't argue

While you could argue the point, and get into a discussion of rights at this point, it's wise not to do so in the heat of the moment. Talking too much can lead to more trouble, because everything you say can be entered into evidence. Say as little as possible. Don't argue your innocence on the spot. Taking the tests can prove you are not impaired. If the test results do lead to an OUI charge, you can fight this. Contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Any OUI conviction in Maine will lead to serious consequences, including a criminal record. 

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