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Legality Of Sobriety Checkpoints

Legality Of Sobriety Checkpoints

According to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, unreasonable searches and seizures of U.S. citizens are forbidden. There must be probable cause for a law enforcement agent to arrest or search people on their private property. This means that an officer must have reasonable suspicion based on facts that a crime has occurred.

This leads many people to ask how officers can legally stop drivers at sobriety checkpoints.

Do Sobriety Checkpoints Violate The 4th Amendment?

The Michigan State Supreme Court found that sobriety checkpoints violated the Fourth Amendment. However, in a split decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that properly conducted checkpoints are legal, and reversed the Michigan Court’s decision.

The Supreme Court acknowledges that DUI roadblocks violate a fundamental constitutional right. However, Chief Justice Rehnquist argued in a majority opinion that sobriety checkpoints are justified because the state’s interest in reducing drunk driving outweighs the minor infringement on an individual’s rights.

Debating The Legality Of DUI Roadblocks

The dissenting judges argued that the Constitution does not provide exceptions to the Fourth Amendment. Judge Brennan argued, “That stopping every car might make it easier to prevent drunken driving...is an insufficient justification for abandoning the requirement of individualized suspicion.”

Judge Stevens, who also dissented in this case, argued that the net effect of checkpoints on traffic safety is small, and possibly negative. He also stated that even if roadblocks were effective, conducting them would not justify violating people’s constitutional rights.

Many DUI attorneys call this ruling “the DUI exception to the Constitution.”

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has made this exemption to the Constitution, eleven states did not abide by the decision. These states found that sobriety checkpoints violate their constitution or outlawed them. People in these states have more protections against unreasonable searches and police DUI roadblocks are prohibited.

AK Alaska LA Louisiana OH Ohio
AL Alabama MA Massachusetts OK Oklahoma
AR Arkansas MD Maryland OR Oregon
AZ Arizona ME Maine PA Pennsylvania
CA California MI Michigan RI Rhode Island
CO Colorado MN Minnesota SC South Carolina
CT Connecticut MO Missouri SD South Dakota
DE Delaware MS Mississippi TN Tennessee
FL Florida MT Montana TX Texas
GA Georgia NC North Carolina UT Utah
HI Hawaii ND North Dakota VT Vermont
IA Iowa NE Nebraska VA Virginia
ID Idaho NH New Hampshire WA Washington State
IL Illinois NJ New Jersey WI Wisconsin
IN Indiana NM New Mexico WV West Virginia
KS Kansas NV Nevada WY Wyoming
KY Kentucky NY New York DC Washington DC