Copyright 2015. William C. Head. All Rights Reserved.
Several courts have found DUI roadblocks to be illegal under the search and seizure provisions of state constitutions because established DUI roadblock laws were not followed. Such courts often find the state constitutional provisions to be more restrictive than the Fourth Amendment. The burden of proving the reasonableness of a DUI roadblock is usually on the prosecution, once the issue is raised by the defendant. To meet its burden of proof, the prosecution must show that the roadblock was conducted in accordance with administratively-established DUI roadblock laws that provide for explicit limitations on the conduct of individual officers.
What if a police officer observes a vehicle making a legal U-turn on the highway for the apparent purpose of avoiding a roadblock?In one Indiana case, the making of a lawful U-turn under these circumstances was held to give the officer an articulable suspicion of illegal activity sufficient to justify the stopping of the vehicle. However, in a case in Oregon, the making of a U-turn to avoid a roadblock was held not to give rise to an articulable suspicion. Of course, if a motorist proceeds through a DUI roadblock at a high rate of speed and thereby endangers a police officer, the officer has the required articulable suspicion for stopping the vehicle.Because an illegal stop constitutes an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, the evidence obtained as a result of the stop is inadmissible against the person stopped under both the exclusionary rule set forth in Mapp v. Ohio and the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine set forth in Wong Sun v. United States. These exclusionary rules apply regardless of whether the illegal stop resulted from the lack of an articulable suspicion by the officer or from an illegal roadblock. If the stop is found to be illegal, all evidence obtained as a result of the stop may be suppressed upon the filing of a proper motion. Evidence obtained prior to the arrest of the defendant, such as the officer’s observations of the defendant and the defendant’s performance of field sobriety tests, may be suppressed if the DUI stop was illegal.
Unconstitutional DUI Roadblock LawsThe types of roadblocks that are most likely to fail the constitutional test are those established at the whim of junior officers and those that are obviously selectively designed to stop certain classes of drivers. In Nebraska, a roadblock established on the decision of a sergeant and a few patrolmen was held unconstitutional. Similarly, a roadblock set up on the decision of two state troopers as a spot check for drivers licenses, vehicle registration, and equipment, but which resulted in a drunk driving arrest, was found unconstitutional in Washington.A DUI roadblock set up ostensibly to check driver’s licenses at the closing time of a nearby bar and that stopped only vehicles headed in the direction leading away from the bar was held unconstitutional in Texas. A similar ruling was reached in Pennsylvania and a roadblock established on Memorial Day weekend wherein all motorists were stopped and observed was held unconstitutional in Idaho.Drunk or impaired driving cases are one of the most involved and complex types of DUI criminal cases. Choosing a specialized attorney who is familiar with all aspects, including roadblocks, is imperative when fighting accusations. TeamDUI.com attorneys are all highly-credentialed and have proven track records of fighting DUI-DWI cases. To speak to an attorney near you for a FREE case evaluation, call 1-844-TEAM-DUI (1-844-832-6384) anytime – day or night. To have an attorney call you, fill out an online case evaluation form.