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4 questions about drunk driving stops in Florida

Seeing a police car pull up behind you leaves you with a knot in your stomach. You feel nervous even if you did not do anything wrong. This is especially true if they pull you over at 2 a.m. and you know that the officer wants to check and see if you are driving under the influence.

Maybe you have never been involved in a traffic stop like this before. You know that your nervousness and lack of experience could make you act suspiciously. Could that lead to legal trouble? To help you, here are four common questions and answers:

1. Can police use checkpoints?

They can. Roadblocks and checkpoints are controversial, but they remain legal as long as they are neutral and do not target certain drivers. For instance, a checkpoint may break the law if it lets all adults pass and stops all teens. As long as everyone faces the same treatment, though, police can and do use DUI checkpoints. Often, they simply check every single car coming down the road to see if they can identify any drunk drivers.

2. Can you refuse a breath test?

If the police ask you to take the test and you refuse to do it, you violate implied consent laws. Essentially, all drivers give their consent before they get behind the wheel, just by getting a license. Violating this law, whether you are sober or not, could lead to your arrest. They can suspend your license even if you did nothing else wrong.

3. Do you have to talk to the police?

You do not. They may ask you questions as part of the initial stop or after reading you your rights and making an arrest. You do not have to answer those questions. When accused of driving under the influence, as with any other crime, you do have a right to a lawyer and the right to remain silent.

4. How do police justify the initial stop?

Unless it is a roadblock, they justify it by claiming they had a reason to pull you over or to believe you were driving while intoxicated. For instance, some DUI stops start as simple traffic stops where police see someone driving faster than the speed limit or rolling through a stop sign. Other stops begin when officers notice someone driving recklessly and erratically -- swerving all over the road or braking for no reason, for instance -- and think that person is drunk. Regardless, they do need a reason to stop you.

Understanding your defense options

When facing DUI allegations, make sure you know what defense options you have. Drunk driving charges can stay with you for a long time and may have a drastic impact on your life.

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