Sobriety checkpoints are frequently used by police in Alabama to arrest people for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. In a recent story from AL.com, a man was arrested at a DUI checkpoint in Covington County, after he allegedly tried to smuggle six protected gopher tortoises into the state.
Authorities are reporting that the suspect was charged with possession of a non-game species. This is a misdemeanor criminal charge. It is believed that the man was planning on eating the turtles. This particular type of turtle is a protected by Alabama state law and is a listed as a threatened species by the United States Government. It is alleged that the suspect had obtained the turtles in Florida, where they are listed as a protected species.
As our Birmingham DUI attorneys can explain, there are a lot of problems with DUI checkpoints, other than those involving endangered tortoises. In order for a sobriety checkpoint to be constitutional, the police cannot simply pull over people they suspect to be driving drunk. They are required to follow a predetermined procedure in which they stop cars in a routine order.
For example, police can determine they will stop every third or every fifth car that comes through the checkpoint. If they deviate from this procedure, your attorney may be able file a motion to suppress the unlawful vehicle stop. In a DUI case, if the car stop can be suppressed, then any evidence gathered after the stop is excluded from the case. This essentially means that the case is dismissed.
In addition to filing a motion to suppress the stop, large volume arrests often lead to other problems for police and prosecutors. Police running a sobriety checkpoint will normally make an arrest, place the suspect in a transport vehicle, and then go back to the checkpoint. They do not go through the trouble of setting up a DUI checkpoint just to arrest one person.
At the end of the night, officers running the checkpoint will typically go back to the station and generate all of the police reports. This means that they may be writing many police reports in a row. The way the police do this is typically by cutting and pasting information from one report to the next. When they do this, they tend to get a lot of information wrong. Sometimes it is descriptive information such as height, weight, ethnicity, or eye color. Other times it is as bad as using the wrong name.
Your attorney may be able to obtain all police reports from that evening and use those obvious mistakes to cross examine the arresting officer or in another motion to suppress.
While every situation is different, and you should speak with a DUI lawyer about the facts of your particular case, if you have been arrested after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in Alabama, there may be a lot your attorney can do to help you avoid a conviction.