DUI Roadblocks

DUI check point signDUI roadblocks are a source of much litigation and contention in DUI-DWI cases. A DUI roadblock stop is the only type of non-consensual stop for which an “articulable suspicion” of illegal activity is not required. Consequently, the legality of such stops are closely scrutinized by the courts.

The stopping of a vehicle at a DUI roadblock constitutes a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, the stop must be “reasonable” to be constitutional. The reasonableness of a roadblock stop is determined largely by the reasonableness of manner in which the sobriety checkpoint was organized and carried out. In determining the reasonableness of a DUI checkpoint for Fourth Amendment purposes, the severity of the interference with the individual liberty protected by the Fourth Amendment (i.e., the right to privacy) must be balanced against the gravity of the public concern served by the roadblock and the degree to which the roadblock advances that public concern.

The level of interference in individual liberties caused by a DUI roadblock is determined by such factors as the guidelines established for implementing the roadblock, whether the guidelines were established after careful study by responsible administrative officials or at the whim of officers in the field, and the degree to which the guidelines were adhered to in carrying out the DUI checkpoint.

For a DUI roadblock to be constitutional, its guidelines should provide for such things as adequate lighting and sufficient warnings at the scene of the roadblock; a visible display of legitimate police authority at the roadblock site; the immediate giving of an explanation of the nature and purpose of the roadblock to each motorist stopped; a systematic, “non-random” basis for stopping vehicles; and a minimal detention of each non-impaired driver. In essence, the opportunity for the police officers conducting the roadblock to act selectively or arbitrarily must be curtailed by real and enforced guidelines in order for a roadblock to pass the constitutional muster.

The public concern served by most roadblocks is the detection and arrest of drunk or impaired drivers, the gravity of which is beyond question. The only judicial question is the degree to which a particular roadblock advances this public concern. In other words, the only “public concern” question is whether a particular roadblock is effective in detecting and deterring drinking or drunk drivers. Unfortunately for defense counsel, the Supreme Court in Michigan ruled that for Fourth Amendment purposes the “effectiveness” of a check point is an administrative decision to be made by the appropriate law enforcement authorities, whose decision on the matter is not judicially reviewable if within reason.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI-DWI involving a DUI roadblock, don’t simply give in to the possible consequences of a conviction. TeamDUI.com lawyers are available 24 hours per day and 7 days per week to discuss your individual situation and how to fight the charges against you. Contact us today at 1-844-TEAM-DUI (1-844-832-6384) for a no-cost case evaluation.