By: Mike Stetzer
Commonly referred to as a sobriety checkpoint, a DUI checkpoint is a way for law enforcement to randomly stop vehicles to investigate whether or not the driver is impaired. These checkpoints do pose certain legal issues, with many drivers claiming the checkpoints are a violation of their rights under the Fourth Amendment. However, most states allow for the use of DUI checkpoints.
During a DUI checkpoint, police officers stop every vehicle or a predetermined number of vehicles to examine drivers for signs of impairment. These checkpoints help raise public awareness about the dangers of driving under the influence and charges those committing a DUI offense. Typically, DUI checkpoints are scheduled when people are most likely to drink and drive, such as weekends or holidays.
Although DUI checkpoints help with DUI enforcement, these stations have caused controversy in many states because of the questionable constitutionality and drunk driving arrest rates. If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint, don't wait to start your defense. Get a free case evaluation with a local DUI attorney when you complete the free form on this page.
Controversy Surrounding DUI Checkpoints
Opponents of DUI checkpoints have cited the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure, or searches and seizures that occur without probable cause, to support the argument that DUI checkpoints are unconstitutional.
In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that the infringement of Fourth Amendment rights caused by DUI checkpoints is overshadowed by the potential public benefit of getting dangerous, impaired drivers off the road. The court added that DUI checkpoints must follow certain guidelines to be legal:
- Decisions must be made by supervisors, not arresting officers
- Vehicles must be stopped only according to a predetermined formula
- Public and officer safety are most important
- Locations must be selected by policymakers, based on drunk driving statistics
- Duration must be limited by concerns of effectiveness and intrusiveness
- Clearly visible warning lights and signs must be displayed telling drivers
- Drivers must be detained for the minimum amount of time possible
- Advance publication of the place and time is required to increase its deterrent effect and minimize intrusiveness
Every state that allows DUI checkpoints must determine which regulations apply. The following states have ruled that, even with the above regulations, DUI checkpoints remain unconstitutional (Please note that laws may have changed since our last update):
DUI Checkpoint Effectiveness
Though many advocates promote DUI checkpoints as an effective preventative measure to curb the occurrence of driving under the influence, various studies have shown that DUI checkpoints may be much less effective than other police methods.
According to a report in the Arizona Daily Star, the high cost of DUI checkpoints is unjustified by the low arrest rate. Consider these statistics, which were discovered by an investigation conducted by the Star.
- Between 2005 and 2007, more than 46,000 drivers were stopped. Less than 1% of these were arrested, and fewer than half of those were convicted.
- On July 4th, 2007, a DUI checkpoint arrested less than 0.1% of the more than 1,239 drivers who passed through the checkpoint.
- Statistics show that DUI arrest and conviction rates have shown no decrease since 2005. It seems the educational benefits of DUI checkpoints are minimal, if there's any.
- Conviction rates for DUI checkpoint arrests tend to be lower than regular DUI arrests because DUI lawyers often challenge the constitutionality of DUI checkpoint arrests.
If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint, consult with a DUI attorney in your area to determine whether or not your DUI arrest was constitutional. To get in touch with a local DUI attorney as soon as possible, fill out a free DUI attorney connection form or call 877-349-1311.