Are DUI Checkpoints Unconstitutional?

Are DUI Checkpoints Unconstitutional?
In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that, despite their “intrusion on individual liberties,” being stopped in a DUI checkpoint does not violate a person’s Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Despite this ruling, drivers continue to challenge the legality of DUI checkpoints, asking one very persistent question: are DUI checkpoints unconstitutional?

Prior to the 1990 ruling, several Michigan drivers filed suit against the state after being arrested in a DUI roadblock. The drivers argued that, because they were stopped without reason, their arrests clearly violated the Fourth Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. After reviewing the case, the Michigan State Supreme Court agreed with the drivers and ruled in their favor—but that changed once the case was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a split ruling, the federal court overruled the Michigan Court’s decision and determined that DUI checkpoints were, indeed, legal under federal law. Despite finding that roadblocks did meet the Fourth Amendment’s definition of an unreasonable seizure, the court found that, due to the threat a drunk driver imposes on other motorists, they were a necessary means of protection.

However, as several dissenting judges pointed out, the Constitution doesn’t make room for exceptions and, whether beneficial or not, DUI checkpoints are a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, forcing drivers to participate in “suspicionless investigatory seizures.”

Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to leave it up to each state to determine whether law officers could use DUI checkpoints to apprehend suspected drunk drivers. Following this ruling, eleven states passed laws to prohibit roadblocks, while the remaining 39 states continued to allow them.

So what does that mean for you? Well, if you are lucky enough to live in one of the states where roadblocks aren’t allowed (Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming), you have nothing to worry about. The rest of us, meanwhile, should take certain precautions to reduce the chances of being arrested during a DUI checkpoint—such as avoiding making incriminating statements about earlier activities or admitting to drinking alcohol, for example.

If you were recently arrested for DUI after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint, it is important to obtain legal representation immediately. In many cases, an experienced DUI defense attorney may be able to challenge the constitutionality of your arrest and get your charges dismissed.

To learn more about strategies for fighting a DUI roadblock arrest, finish a case form online to find a skilled DUI defense attorney in your area today.

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