Normally, a vehicle cannot be stopped by the police unless they have a reason to believe that there has been a traffic violation or crime. However, you might have come across sobriety checkpoints on your way home. In such a situation, the police might stop everyone driving on the road. The Supreme Court of the United States has mentioned the overall legality of checkpoints such as driving under influence or DUI for short. State laws also impact the legality of such checkpoints.
What Does the Fourth Amendment Permit?
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution only permits seizures and searches by the police which tend to be reasonable. There has to be reasonable suspicion regarding the breaking of law in order for the police to stop a vehicle. When it comes to DUI checkpoints, the police would stop just about every vehicle on the road. This means that the police would retain drivers even if they do not have any reason to believe that the drivers have done anything wrong. According to the Supreme Court, temporary DUI checkpoints meet the requirements of the Fourth Amendment and do not violate the rights of drivers. Such a decision by the Supreme Court means that it is crucial to prevent drunk drivers from driving on the road. It shows that it is more important to ensure that only drivers of sound mind drive rather than considering the intrusion and inconvenience caused by such measures as mentioned in the case Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz 1990 U.S. (496 444)
Although the Supreme Court might approve driving under influence checkpoints, it does not necessarily mean that each detention made by the police at a checkpoint is considered lawful. If the police have no evidence of any wrongdoing or impairment, then they cannot delay or search the driver or the vehicle for a long period of time. Such a situation can be tried at court and the court will find such stop to be unreasonable. This includes all seizures and searches made by the police. The circumstances influence DUI checkpoint legality and any detentions.
State Law Might Deem DUI Roadblocks Unlawful or Illegal
According to the interpretation of the United States Constitution by the United States Supreme Court, DUI checkpoints are considered to be legal. However, on the other hand, each state has its own statutes and constitutions which govern the legality of DUI checkpoints. Thus, state laws can provide people with more regards to how they interact with the law enforcement officers. Certain states such as Wisconsin and Iowa have statutes in place which prevent sobriety checkpoints. DUI checkpoints are deemed to violate the constitution of some states such as Oregon, Michigan, and Washington. In such states, the law enforcement cannot set up sobriety checkpoints.
What Is Lawful According to the Supreme Court of the United States?
In order to better understand where police DUI roadblocks are legal, it is important to know what is considered as lawful by the Supreme Court of the United States. The following situations are considered lawful when it comes to police DUI roadblocks.
Making of Constitutional Decisions by the Supervising Officer
Operational decisions have to be made by the administration officer before a checkpoint can even be placed. A field officer does not have any right to make such decision. Moreover, the administrative officer would also make the decision regarding how each checkpoint would be conducted. It helps prevent any type of profiling that is unconstitutional from occurring in the first place as basing people out on their national origin or race and detaining them for further questioning is against the law. Some of the decisions to be made by an administrative officer include how vehicles selected would be detained briefly, the area of the checkpoints and their date as well as times.
Impartiality Is Vital When Stopping Motorists
There has to be a decision made as to which vehicles need to be stopped by an administrative officer prior to the establishment of checkpoints. The field officer does not have any discretion over such matter. An example of orders passed by an administrative officer could be to stop 3 vehicles consecutively, to allow the next vehicle to proceed, and to stop 3 vehicles consecutively. The guideline cannot restrict detention or searching to be made for men alone or of people belonging to a certain race or religion.
In order for a DUI checkpoint to be considered constitutional, it has to be established in an area that has a high number of DUI arrests in order for it to be more effective at stopping drunk drivers from driving.
Safety Precautions Must Be In Place
Safety precautions are crucial. Everything has to be planned out. Safety measures have to be implemented so that every driver can stop safely and navigate through each checkpoint with ease. Moreover, the checkpoints have to be set up in such a way so as to ensure that reasonable flow of traffic is maintained. There needs to be sufficient lighting and the number of cars that pass through have to be manageable. Alternative plans must also be in place if the checkpoint causes congestion on the road.
Reasonable Time and Duration
Checkpoints cannot last an entire week. They have to operate for a reasonable time. The burden on drivers should not be significant in order for the DUI checkpoints to even operate for a week or less. The duration of the checkpoints has to be set by the administrative officer. Minimal inconvenience is only allowed. It is not permitted to establish a checkpoint during rush hours on a busy road.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been wrongly detained during a DUI roadblock or feel that your constitutional rights have been violated, then you need to contact Harris County Criminal Defense Attorney and Criminal Attorney Houston as Mr. Harris has represented clients who have been injured or involved in wrongful arrests. When you hire an experienced attorney such as Mr. Harris, you can be rest assured that everything will be handled.