A sobriety checkpoint in Dare County nabbed four Virginia residents just after midnight on April 23 near Nags Head. When the vehicle came through the checkpoint, the driver was unable to produce a valid driver’s license, prompting the investigating officer to look a little deeper into the situation. During the ensuing encounter, a K-9 officer signaled that there were controlled substances inside the car.
A search turned up both methamphetamine and heroin in the car. A 35-year-old passenger was charged with felony possession as a result. The 31-year-driver was also charged with possession of another controlled substance, driving on a revoked license and failure to wear a seat belt.
Sobriety checkpoints are often a contentious subject between law enforcement and defense attorneys. Far too often, they’re fishing expeditions. Officers are permitted to look for any violations of traffic law, not just impaired driving. While officers are expected to follow certain procedures and observe everyone’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches, it generally isn’t hard for an officer to find an excuse to search a vehicle if they’re so inclined.
If you’re driving in this state, it’s wise to remember that an officer does not need a warrant to search your vehicle or demand a breath test at a checkpoint if there’s a reasonable suspicion to do so. All it takes is a whiff of alcohol or drugs to give them justification.
What should you do at a North Carolina checkpoint? Stay calm. Stay cool. If you are arrested, remember to invoke your right to remain silent and contact a defense attorney right away.