Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
Understanding DUI Checkpoints
Your vehicle rolls through a DUI checkpoint as the police officer wields a bright flashlight in your face. While you understand the effort to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads, you feel like this is an invasion of privacy. Being stopped by an officer is a nerve-wracking experience for just about any driver. It’s understandable to be stopped for swerving across lanes, but DUI checkpoints stop everyone, regardless of how well they are driving.
DUI Checkpoint Restrictions and the Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment offers protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Unless there is an exception to the general rule, law enforcement should only perform searches or seize your property after obtaining a warrant from a judge who will require probable cause before issuing the warrant. Where do DUI checkpoints fit in? Does a police officer have the right to pull you to the side of the road to administer a sobriety test without a warrant, and even without probable cause?
The U.S. Supreme Court found that DUI checkpoints are constitutional, since the interest of reducing drunk driving outweighs inconvenience to drivers. DUI checkpoints may operate differently from state to state, but some or all of the following factors should be present:
- Public notice should be made before the date of a DUI checkpoint to inform area motorists
- Police must make their presence apparent before drivers approach
- Official police procedures must be established
- The impact on traffic should be minimal
- Turnouts should be provided to motorists who don’t wish to participate
Motorists who are cited for DUI because of a DUI checkpoint should have an attorney evaluate the way the DUI checkpoint was operated, as this might give rise to a legal defense.
DUI checkpoints are often performed on nights, weekends and holidays, and usually in a city’s “hot spots” where a high volume of intoxicated drivers is expected. Watching the news for DUI checkpoint notifications and exercising safe driving practices will significantly lower your risk of a negative DUI checkpoint experience.
Find a DUI Attorney
If you are charged with a DUI, it doesn’t matter whether it was from a DUI checkpoint or a roadside field sobriety test. DUI charges are always serious and can affect your freedom and your ability to make a living, as well as impacting your future for years to come. Having a local licensed DUI attorney on your side may help reduce potential penalties, or even result in charges being dismissed altogether. When you retain a DUI attorney, he or she will explore the events leading up to the DUI charge to see if the police followed their own rules properly and didn’t violate your Constitutional rights.