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Are sobriety checkpoints legal in Colorado?

Whether hanging out with your buddies near Colorado College or planning a trip to Denver to see your favorite band at the Pepsi Center, you may want to mix some booze with the festivities. If you drive after your blood alcohol concentration climbs above Colorado’s 0.08% legal limit, though, you may find yourself in the middle of a DUI stop

Many law enforcement agencies across the United States use sobriety checkpoints to identify and subsequently jail intoxicated drivers. Given the Centennial State’s fast rate of growth, you may have moved from somewhere where these checkpoints are not legal. Are they legal in Colorado, though? The simple answer is yes. Still, any roadblock should follow some strict guidelines from the Colorado Department of Transportation. 

1. Advance publication 

To comply with CDOT guidelines, officers must notify the public about sobriety checkpoints before they happen. Notice can come in a variety of forms, though, such as through local news outlets or social media. 

2. Efficiency 

A sobriety checkpoint must not overly inconvenience drivers. Said another way, it should be as efficient as possible. Rather than taking up a considerable amount of time, the checkpoint should require drivers to stop just long enough for officers to determine if they have had too much to drink. 

3. Staffing and supervision 

Uniformed police officers should be present at any sobriety checkpoint in Colorado, enough to conduct screenings properly. Further, all sobriety checkpoints should have supervising officers who can assist with legal and other questions. 

4. Warning 

Officers must provide sufficient checkpoint warning to approaching motorists. Warning may include signs, marked patrol cars with flashing lights, flares, traffic cones or other measures. 

5. Safety 

Drunk driving is a safety hazard. Still, when setting up a sobriety checkpoint, officers may not create more of a hazard than DUIs cause. Instead, the checkpoint should be in a safe location with plenty of room for drivers to stop without creating dangerous conditions for themselves, other motorists or officers. 

6. Neutrality 

Finally, officers must conduct sobriety checkpoints in a neutral and non-discriminatory manner. That is, officers may not target specific vehicles. Rather, they should stop every car or choose a representative sample, such as every eighth vehicle. 

While violating any of the above guidelines does not necessarily render a sobriety checkpoint illegal, unconstitutional or improper, some infractions might. Accordingly, if you face DUI charges from a pop-up roadblock, it is probably a good idea to investigate whether officers followed the law when erecting the checkpoint.

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