How do territories legally justify DUI checkpoints?
There are many states where police arrange driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoints as a means of identifying drunk or impaired motorists. Usually, the checkpoints are conducted during holidays when drivers are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol; and they are typically executed on roads with high traffic volume. At these checkpoints, police officers randomly assign vehicles to stop so they may assess the sobriety of the driver. Officers usually interview the driver and verify their identification. These checkpoints have undergone great scrutiny by proponents of the Fourth Amendment, claiming the checkpoints violate their rights.
The United States Supreme Court and DUI Checkpoints
The Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that DUI checkpoints are legitimate. The Court stated that stopping motorists for the checkpoint does not infringe up their Fourth Amendment rights; suggesting that stopping the drivers is a reasonable execution of a search and seizure. The Court’s decision poses the question, what defines an unreasonable search?
Reasonable searches vs Unreasonable Searches
Probable cause is necessary for a search to remain reasonable. For instance, if an officer searches you after you’ve been arrested, the arrest warrants a reasonable search. Since you were arrested, it presents the officer with probable cause because they already caught you committing an offense. But, simply arriving at a DUI checkpoint does not inherently mean any crime was committed by a motorist. Therefore, the officers have not obtained probable cause – which would typically result in an unreasonable search. However, these checkpoints are exempt from the probable cause requirement to ascertain a reasonable search.
How Are These Checkpoints Constitutional?
Originally, a court in Michigan determined what constitutes a reasonable/unreasonable seizure; before the Supreme Court’s decision. When the Supreme Court ruled on the checkpoints, they maintained that the Michigan ruling was appropriate, however, they simply stated that the checkpoints were an exception to the definition of a reasonable search. The Supreme Court stated that this exception was needed for protection as a response to the increased threat of inebriated drivers.
Are DUI Checkpoints Ever Illegal?
You may be able to make a claim against an illegal search and seizure provided certain conditions have not been met. A lawyer may be able to develop a defense if:
- The operation exceeded the duration initially stated by authorities. This defense may be valid if you were stopped outside the time frame allotted for the operation.
- Wrongful Detention. You were detained an excessive amount of time to determine sobriety.
- Unreasonable Checkpoints. The location was a low risk area for incidents, accidents, or arrests.
- The operation lacked public knowledge. Authorities must notify the public of the intention to stage a checkpoint. If they fail to do this may help your case.
If you’ve been arrested due to a DUI checkpoint that met any of the criteria above, your rights may have been violated. Contact a criminal defense attorney such as the DUI lawyer Peoria IL locals turn to to discuss potential options for your case.
Thanks to authors at Smith & Weer LLC for their insight into Criminal Defense