Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in the US? Here’s a Full Breakdown
DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints are roadblocks that police officials set up on roads for the purpose of catching people who are driving under the influence of alcohol. Some skeptics think they are also used to generate money for police departments and the State, since they often result in drivers receiving minor fines.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states that people have a right against unreasonable searches and seizures:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
In the 1990 case of Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, the Supreme Court ruled that in the case of DUI checkpoints the needs of the state to prevent drunk-driving accidents outweigh the minimal intrusion on sober drivers who happen to get stopped. Therefore DUI checkpoints do not constitute unreasonable search and seizure.
Twelve states do not conduct DUI checkpoints. You don’t have to worry about being stopped if you live in, or are driving through Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Of the list, Texas is the only state that prohibits DUI checkpoints based on their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, while the others prohibit them by state law.
What Happens at a DUI Checkpoint?
During a DUI checkpoint, authorities may only do what the law permits. This usually involves running a background check for warrants, verifying a driver’s license, and observing whether or not you are in the proper condition to operate a vehicle.
When you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you are not required to proceed through if you really want to avoid it. If you decide to drive through the checkpoint and are selected, then you must comply. But there are no laws that specifically ban drivers from turning around at the checkpoint. While simply turning around is not enough to give police reasonable suspicion required to make a DUI stop, they can still stop you if you engage in suspicious or illegal behavior – making an illegal turn, driving erratically, swerving, etc.
If you proceed through the checkpoint and get stopped, you can expect to be asked a few questions. In some cases, officers may ask for your license and registration documents. If there is any indication of alcohol or drug use, you may be asked to perform a field sobriety test. Generally, police will only request a test if they observe bad driving, slurred speech, and other signs of intoxication.
If you are charged with a DUI during a roadblock, you will be taken to the local police station. Do not answer any further questions on the way to the station or while behind bars until you talk to a DUI attorney. In some cases, you may be allowed to leave once your bail has been posted, otherwise they will hold you until you sober up.