Featured News 2020 Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

A DUI checkpoint is a location where police officers temporarily station themselves to check drivers for any signs of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Officers will set up a temporary roadblock and stop every car (or every third or fourth or any number car) to test the driver’s blood alcohol level. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association®, many jurisdictions nationwide utilize DUI checkpoints as a part of a larger anti-drunk driving program.

However, there are legal issues surrounding the “constitutionality” of DUI checkpoints, so not all states use DUI checkpoints. Some states have laws that authorize their use, while others strictly forbid them.

The states that haven’t decided for or against them may or may not conduct sobriety checkpoints. In many states, however, judges have had to step in to either uphold or restrict DUI checkpoints based on their interpretation of their state’s constitution. Currently, 38 states conduct sobriety checkpoints.

The 12 states that do not allow sobriety checkpoints include:

  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Texas

The Constitutional Case Against Sobriety Checkpoints

The reason some states find sobriety checkpoints to be unconstitutional is they believe it contradicts the Fourth Amendment. As a refresher, the Fourth Amendment protects US citizens from unreasonable search and seizure or from searches without probable cause. Because the only reason anyone gets stopped by a sobriety checkpoint is through random chance, that does not constitute probable cause—or at least, that’s what the Michigan Supreme Court concluded in Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz in 1990.

However, when that case was brought before the US Supreme Court, they ruled in favor of sobriety checkpoints 6-3. As long as the checkpoints met certain guidelines, the majority opinion argued, then it did not violate the fourth amendment. In states like California, these guidelines require checkpoints to:

  • Stop drivers for a minimal amount of time
  • Stop drivers using a neutral criteria
  • Be clearly labeled as a sobriety checkpoint
  • Be publicly advertised in advance

If a sobriety checkpoint fails to meet any of these criteria, then the arrest could potentially be voided and the case against the alleged drunk driver would be dropped.

How One Florida Attorney Advised His Clients

An attorney in South Florida once accused the local police of arresting people for DUI simply for smelling their breath at a DUI checkpoint. He earned a lot of attention after distributing controversial flyers online that drivers could show law enforcement at DUI checkpoints. The flyer advised drivers who were stopped by the police to keep their windows rolled up and to hold the flyer where officers could see it. It also said to display their license, registration, and insurance to police through the window, thus preventing police from smelling their breath.

Challenging Your DUI Checkpoint Arrest

If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint, speak with a local DUI lawyer to learn your legal options. Checkpoints are subject to intense scrutiny due to their controversial constitutionality, and an experienced attorney might be able to prove your arrest was unlawful. An aggressive attorney can also fight to reduce your charges or get your case dismissed.

If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint, a hard-hitting DUI defense attorney can protect your rights! Use our directory to find a DUI attorney near you.

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