Stopping a Vehicle Based on Suspicion: An in-Depth Look Into the Legality of DUI Checkpoints

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Driving under the influence is often detected at DUI checkpoints. When someone goes through a checkpoint, officers are looking for any signs the driver is inebriated and unable to safely drive. If someone is suspected of being under the influence, they can then be arrested and given a BAC (blood alcohol content) test to determine if they are over the legal limit. While the DUI checkpoints can be successful and get a lot of drivers who have been drinking off the road, there have been questions about whether they’re legal in the first place.

How to Handle a DUI Checkpoint

Often, people start questioning whether DUI checkpoints are illegal when they’ve been stopped at one. If a driver is stopped, they should remain polite to the officers, but avoid saying anything that could incriminate them. Every officer has been told many times before that the driver only had two drinks with dinner, even by drivers who were found to be well over the legal limit. Instead, the driver should remain polite, follow any commands from the officers, and wait until they’re told they can leave. If the driver is arrested, they can then contact a corpus christi car wreck lawyer or DUI lawyer to get help with the case.

The Fourth Amendment – Searches and Seizures

The answer to whether these checkpoints are legal begins with the fourth amendment. According to the fourth amendment, searches and seizures are only allowed if they are reasonable. This protects residents from being subject to any searches or seizures if the police officers do not have probable cause or reason to suspect that something illegal has occurred. The amendment covers a variety of topics, including search warrants, safety inspections, wiretaps, and a variety of other types of surveillance that officers may do in the attempt to protect residents from being spied on or searched without cause.

What This Has to Do With Traffic Stops

At first glance, it may not look like the fourth amendment has much to do with the DUI checkpoints. However, when an officer stops a vehicle, it’s considered a seizure under the fourth amendment, even if the driver is free to go after speaking with the officers. In the majority of cases, officers are only allowed to stop a vehicle if they have reasonable suspicion that the driver has done something illegal. With a DUI checkpoint, though, every vehicle on the road is stopped, not just the ones officers have probable cause to stop.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

It would seem like DUI checkpoints, then, go against the fourth amendment, making them illegal. One lawyer did argue this for their client, and the case ended up going to the supreme court for a decision. In the 1990 case Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, it was decided by the supreme court that short DUI checkpoint stops do not violate the fourth amendment. They made this decision because they believed that the importance of stopping drunk driving accidents and deaths outweighed the inconvenience to drivers going through the checkpoints.

DUI checkpoints are legal in most states because of the Supreme Court’s decision in 1990. However, there are still times when a DUI checkpoint could become illegal, such as if the driver is detained for an unreasonable amount of time. If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint and arrested, speak with a lawyer quickly. They can help determine if the stop was legal or whether your rights have been violated.