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Plan on Sobriety Checkpoints in Virginia This Halloween

Oct. 21, 2019

Halloween isn't just for kids. Many adults enjoy this time of year. While kids are going door to door for their treats, many adults enjoy getting dressed up as vampires and celebrities to attend adult parties. Alcohol is often a treat as these parties. So, it goes without saying: be safe and don't drink and drive. Always make sure you have a way home, whether it's by a friend or a ride-share or a ghost buggy.

That said, if you do have a drink – even one, though it will almost never put you above the legal limit unless you are a really small person who hasn't eaten a thing – keep in mind that Virginia intends to expand its sobriety checkpoints this Halloween, just as it did over Labor Day weekend. In fact, during the extended Labor Day weekend, there were 120 sobriety checkpoints throughout Virginia involving the combined efforts of the state police and local police departments.

Virginia Sobriety Checkpoints Can Result in Scary Situations

That one drink can mean problems for you if you come across a sobriety checkpoint unexpectedly and if you either admit you had a drink (thinking honesty is the best policy) or if the police officer smells the alcohol on your breath (just that one drink can leave an odor).

If the police officer knows or smells alcohol even though there is no other indication you are operating a vehicle under the unlawful influence of alcohol, you may be asked to perform field sobriety tests (FST) and to submit a breath sample for a preliminary breath test (PBT). And that's a problem because:

  1. FSTs are notoriously subjective and the officer is already suspicious that you are illegally intoxicated; and

  2. PBTs are notoriously flawed and often produce inaccurate results, and as such, cannot be used as evidence of illegal intoxication but are only used to support a Virginia DUI arrest.

The situation can get scary pretty quickly once you realize an arrest may be imminent.

Don't Let the Police Spook You

The police are going to be out in record numbers this year. But for Halloween, they are always out, so it's important to keep that in mind. You may very well not be illegally intoxicated, but you don't want to risk an arrest.

With that said, if you do come across a sobriety checkpoint, keep your cool cat face on and remember you have rights:

  • You do not have to offer any information and can respectfully decline to answer questions but for basic identifying information, your insurance information, and vehicle registration information.

  • You do not have to submit to FSTs and can respectfully decline to do so.

  • You can refuse to submit to a PBT but know that this could mean automatic suspension of your driver's license.

  • You do not have to let the police search your vehicle, so don't consent but make them obtain a warrant.

  • You also have a right to an attorney if you are arrested for a Virginia DUI, so respectfully advise the police officer that you want to uphold this right.

And also remember: you have the right to enjoy your Halloween evening without being harassed by the police, so enjoy. Just be safe about it, if not for yourself then for others around you.