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.

States and Cities:
AK Alaska, Anchorage LA Louisiana, New Orleans OH Ohio, Cincinnati
AL Alabama, Montgomery MA Massachusetts, Boston OK Oklahoma, Tulsa
AR Arkansas, Little Rock MD Maryland, Baltimore OR Oregon, Portland
AZ Arizona, Phoenix ME Maine, Portland PA Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
CA California, Los Angeles MI Michigan, Detroit RI Rhode Island, Providence
CO Colorado, Denver MN Minnesota, Duluth SC South Carolina, Charleston
CT Connecticut, Hartford MO Missouri, Branson SD South Dakota, Sioux Falls
DE Delaware, Wilmington MS Mississippi, Jackson TN Tennessee, Nashville
FL Florida, Orlando MT Montana, Bozeman TX Texas, Houston
GA Georgia, Atlanta NC North Carolina, Charoltte UT Utah, Salt Lake City
HI Hawaii, Honolulu ND North Dakota, Fargo VT Vermont, Burlington
IA Iowa, Des Moines NE Nebraska, Omaha VA Virginia, Richmond
ID Idaho, Boise NH New Hampshire, Portsmouth WA Washington, Seattle
IL Illinois, Chicago NJ New Jersey, Newark WI Wisconsin, Milwaukee
IN Indiana, Indianapolis NM New Mexico, Albuquerque WV West Virginia, Charleston
KS Kansas, Kansas City NV Nevada, Las Vegas WY Wyoming, Cheyenne
KY Kentucky, Lexington NY New York, New York DC Washington DC