Many people in Utah have faced a DUI checkpoint at some time or other. They are in essence a place where law enforcement know that a certain number of people at a certain time will be DUI. The checks are conducted on holidays primarily throughout the night and into early morning. DUI's most frequently occur between 10pm, when people have had a few drinks before heading to a bar or club, and until 3 am, when the bars and clubs have closed and people are heading home. Don't be surprised to see a checkpoint set up near you between those times.
What the officers are looking for are signs of impairment displayed through driving pattern; something called "cues" in their training. For example, are you swerving from one lane to the next? Are you bumping into the curb? Following too closely to the vehicle in front of you? Speeding? These are all cues that officers take into account. But once the stop is made they are looking for signs of alcohol or drug consumption such as an odor of alcoholic beverage or marijuana. That's when they will ask you to step out of the vehicle and begin the DUI investigation with the field sobriety tests.
The DUI checkpoints have to be conducted in a certain manner. For example, every third car may be randomly stopped and checked. However, this is not always the case. The police are human and they go with their guts like everyone else. Do you have dreadlocks and drive a jeep? You better bet they are going to stop you and see if they can smell marijuana or alcohol. Are you a soccer mom type with your kid in the backseat? You'll probably pass by.
A good DUI attorney will try and secure any video from the checkpoint and go through it to ensure that the stops are actually random. If they are not, the issue may be brought up in court and a legal brief, called a motion, may be filed and argued in front of the judge. If the motion is successful, it could result in the evidence being thrown out of court and the case dismissed.
Many police and prosecution agencies list reasons as to why checkpoints are in use. The reasons they list are all noble: such as reducing DUI related deaths and injuries etc. And though there is certainly some of that involved, don't be fooled into believing their motives are completely pure. DUI's are big business for every city and county in the nation. California Watch wrote a great investigative piece about exactly how much money cities pull in when they hold a DUI checkpoint which you can read here. Sadly, there's millions of dollars in it for the government and I fear that we may be seeing more checkpoints in Utah, not to stop DUI's, but because our cities and counties have budget shortfalls and these are quick and easy ways to raise revenue.
Regardless, if you have been charged with DUI from a DUI checkpoint in Utah, make sure to do your research and hire a good DUI attorney. It could mean the difference between getting your case dismissed and getting convicted.