DUI checkpoints are controversial. After all, drivers have a right under the 4th Amendment to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. This is the reason that the police can’t just randomly arrest you to see if you’ve committed a crime. They always have to have a reason for what they do in advance.
With typical drunk driving stops, they also need a reason to stop your car. The reason doesn’t necessarily have to be that you are intoxicated, as the police officer wouldn’t know that yet. But they need a valid reason for the initial traffic stop. It could be anything from running a red light to driving with a tail light out.
The controversy around DUI checkpoints is that the police just stop every car that arrives at the checkpoint. They don’t have a reason for these stops. Completely sober drivers who haven’t done anything wrong still have to stop and talk to them. It has been argued that this violates their rights. So are these checkpoints legal?
The Supreme Court has backed the use of checkpoints
In a general sense, yes, properly conducted DUI checkpoints are legal. This has been contested and brought to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the police can use these as a method of finding drunk drivers. They do have certain regulations they have to adhere to, but the base act of using a checkpoint is not said to violate a driver’s rights.
Exactly why the Supreme Court ruled this way is controversial in its own right. By the letter of the law, it does appear that these stops would breach the Fourth Amendment. But the court determined that checkpoints were useful to prevent people from passing away in drunk driving accidents, and so they allowed for their use in this way.
What if you’re facing charges?
If you do end up going through a checkpoint and you wind up facing charges for driving while under the influence, make sure that you know about all of your legal defense options.