Almost all of us have experienced it. You’re driving home on a Saturday night and you see a line of cars stopped at a DUI checkpoint. At these checkpoints, cars are stopped by law enforcement in random order without any reasonable suspicion. But the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, so how are DUI checkpoints legal?
Do DUI Checkpoints Violate Fourth Amendment Rights?
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that random traffic stops violate Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches. Law enforcement must have probable cause to pull you over, such as witnessing you violate a traffic law. Police officers are required to support their probable cause in court.
Therefore, it would make sense to conclude that police need reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in order to pull you over for DUI. In most cases, this is true. However, DUI checkpoints are different.
In the landmark 1990 Supreme Court case Michigan v. Sitz 496 US 444 (1990), the court reasoned that a person who is driving while intoxicated is considered a threat to public safety. Thus, the court ruled that sobriety checkpoints are legal because the inconvenience and intrusion potentially caused by a DUI checkpoint does not take precedence over the government’s attempt to put a stop to drunk driving.
What Makes a DUI Checkpoint Legal?
The same year as Michigan v. Sitz, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlined the standard procedure for DUI checkpoints. These guidelines must be followed by law enforcement in order for a DUI checkpoint to be considered legal. The standard procedure includes:
- Roadblocks must be publicly announced in advance
- Criteria for stopping drivers must be neutral
- Drivers must be detained a minimal amount of time
- The checkpoint must have sufficient identification as being official
- Supervising officers must make all operation decisions, and
- The time and duration of the checkpoint must reflect “good judgement”
Additionally, law enforcement must consider safety and the rate of alcohol-related arrests in the area when choosing a location for a checkpoint. Under these guidelines, it is legal for a driver to turn away from a checkpoint as long as he or she does not violate any traffic laws while doing so.
As long as a DUI checkpoint meets all of the criteria outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is considered legal.
Contact the DUI Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one was arrested for DUI, you are facing serious consequences that could impact your ability to drive and maintain employment. That is why you should contact an experienced DUI defense attorney immediately. Our skilled and knowledgeable DUI defense lawyers at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully defending clients facing DUI charges for more than 35 years. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich DUI attorney available near you no matter where you are located.
Call our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.