If you are stopped at a roadblock, you must provide your name, address and insurance documents. Police can also check whether your vehicle is roadworthy and ask you to perform a breath test.
DUI checkpoints – also known as roadblocks – are a common sight during the holiday season. Often the police will section off an entire road, and every vehicle passing through is pulled over for an assessment.
But what exactly are your rights at a DUI checkpoint? Do you have to co-operate? Can the police search your vehicle? And do you have to perform a breath test if requested?
Your rights at a police roadblock
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that if you are stopped at a roadblock, you must provide the police with the following information:
- Your name and address
- The name and address of the vehicle’s registered owner (if this is not you)
- Your insurance documents
- Your driver’s licence
The police are also allowed to check:
- The mechanical fitness of the vehicle – meaning police can look through the windows of your vehicle with a flashlight
- Your sobriety – meaning police are entitled to request a breath test
Do I have to perform a breath test?
Yes, you must perform a roadside breath test if requested. Otherwise, you could be charged with refusal to provide a sample.
Before the law changed in 2018, a breath test could only be requested if police officers had a reasonable suspicion that a driver had been drinking alcohol. For example, the police might smell alcohol on the driver’s breath or see an open bottle of liquor in the passenger seat. Or, they might ask the driver whether he/she has been drinking alcohol. An affirmative answer would be enough to raise suspicion.
Now, however, police do not need an excuse to demand a breath test. They can request that you perform a roadside breath test, even if there is no indication that you have consumed alcohol or drugs. In other words, RCMP do not have to have a reasonable suspicion that you have been drinking.
Do I have the right to remain silent?
As mentioned above, if you are stopped at a roadblock, you must state your name and address (and that of the registered owner). You must provide your licence and insurance documents. You must also carry out a breath test, if requested.
Otherwise, you do not have to answer any further police questions. You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to say where you have been, where you are going or impart any other information if you do not want to.
Can the police search my car?
At a DUI checkpoint, the police can only:
- Ask for your name and address (and that of the registered owner)
- Ask for your licence and insurance documents
- Peer through your vehicle windows, with the help of a flashlight if it is dark
- Ask you to perform a breath test
They cannot ask you to open the trunk or search the vehicle, unless the police suspect ongoing criminal activity. This is the only reason why a DUI checkpoint can escalate into a criminal investigation. Police might suspect ongoing criminal activity if they smell narcotics emanating from your vehicle or they spot contraband while peering through the window.
If police officers search your vehicle without good reason, they could be violating your Charter Rights. This could be the basis of your defence, should your case go to court.
Can I flee a DUI checkpoint?
No, you cannot flee a DUI checkpoint. You can avoid a roadblock by driving down a side street and taking an alternative route. However, you cannot take evasive manoeuvres to avoid a police checkpoint, such as making a sudden U-turn or driving straight through without stopping. If you do this, you could be charged with failing to stop or dangerous driving.
To summarize, you have the right to remain silent at a DUI checkpoint. However, you must hand over your licence, insurance documents, and state your name and address. You must also perform a breath test if requested and allow police to check the mechanical fitness of the vehicle. The police can only over-step these powers if there is any indication that you are engaged in criminal activity.
If you are found to be driving while impaired, or you are arrested on suspicion of a criminal offence, you are entitled to legal advice. Contact us at Mickelson & Whysall Law Corporation to speak to a defence lawyer. We can help with all types of motor offences and criminal offences, including impaired driving, drugs offences and firearms offences.