The Legality and Validity of DUI Checkpoints

by Saamb on January 4, 2013

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There’s no doubt about it – intoxicated driving kills. Since the dawn of the automobile, law enforcement officers have been fighting a battle against intoxicated driving, and today, one of the weapons they use most often is the DUI checkpoint. Unfortunately, while DUI checkpoints are quite useful in catching intoxicated drivers, they are not without controversy.

What is a DUI Checkpoint?A DUI checkpoint is essentially a roadblock that is set up by law enforcement to stop all vehicles as they pass by. Each driver will be checked for signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, the odor of alcohol, open alcoholic beverage containers or glassy eyes. In most cases, law enforcement will also ask each driver some questions regarding where they have been and where they are going, and each driver’s license and registration may also be checked.

Why the Controversy?

Critics of DUI checkpoints claim that the stops are a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures, and critics argue that DUI checkpoints amount to unlawful stops. The argument against DUI checkpoints essentially boils down to law enforcement not having any reason to stop a citizen if the citizen is not suspected of committing a crime. By stopping everyone, it’s as if law enforcement officers are claiming that each driver is automatically suspected of intoxicated driving. Critics claim that if law enforcement is able to get away with DUI checkpoints, they will then be able to begin stopping people for no reason in other circumstances.

The Bennefits of DUI Checkpoints

On the other hand, supporters of DUI checkpoints claim that these roadblocks save lives. Each year, thousands of people are injured and even killed in DUI-related accidents. As a result, DUI checkpoints help to cut down on the amount of intoxicated drivers who are on the road, and therefore, everyone is safer. Many supporters also believe that if a driver hasn’t done anything wrong, he or she should have no problem being checked by law enforcement.

DUI Checkpoints in Court

If a driver is stopped at a checkpoint and suspected of intoxicated driving, law enforcement will then conduct a series of tests on the driver, including a field sobriety test and a chemical breath test. If the driver is found to be intoxicated, he or she will be arrested and will have to go before a judge. In the courtroom, how the DUI checkpoint was conducted may become a crucial piece of evidence used by a Los Angeles or Orlando DUI attorney alike. Because DUI checkpoints are supposed to be set up solely for the purpose of catching intoxicated drivers, law enforcement technically can’t make arrests for unrelated crimes, such as driving without a license. Once again, law enforcement needs reasonable suspicion of a crime in order to make a stop, so even if you were driving on a suspended license, law enforcement wouldn’t have had a reason to stop you and find out if it wasn’t for the DUI checkpoint.

Because of the controversy surrounding DUI checkpoints, and because the law can get tricky regarding what police can and can’t do at a checkpoint, it’s always a good idea to partner with a DUI attorney if you’ve been arrested under such circumstances. They will be able to review how you were treated during your arrest, and if law enforcement overstepped its bounds, your attorney can assist you in defending yourself.

Saam Banai is a freelance writer and editor and proponent of safe driving. Being the victim of an unlawful and mistaken DUI charge can ruin someone’s life. That’s why it’s important to partner with a firm like Katz & Phillips, where an experienced Orlando DUI attorney will go to bat  and work to prove your innocence and to keep you out of court.

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