Sobriety checkpoints often help support many convictions when certain circumstances transpire. It is important to know what rights are afforded to those that are arrested during these procedures.
Sobriety Checkpoint Basics
Checkpoints are placed at strategic areas to check drivers for possible intoxication. Though not all drivers may be checked, the procedures should be the same. This may include searches of the inside or outside of the vehicle, depending on state law. When searches are not employed properly, charges of DUI violations may be invalid or reversed. With certain stipulations present in the plan and implementation of the sobriety checkpoints, the United States Supreme Court has deemed these procedures constitutional. It is up to each state to determine if the checkpoint is more of a roadblock or a valid action law enforcement is permitted to complete. When not considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment, each state may allow police officers to conduct checkpoints with approved plans in place.
Declaration of Valid Checkpoints
In 1990, the United States Supreme Court deliberated upon the checkpoint issue and whether it is considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Court deemed these processes valid and not a violation as long as certain guidelines are in place.
Checkpoints must be a minimal intrusion with specific plans in place that specify how searches are conducted, what parts of the vehicle are searched, how many vehicles are checked and what to do when an arrest is needed. When guidelines are not followed properly, any charges or arrests for DUI violations may be reversed or challenged.
Because of this decision, when a state deems these procedures valid, a person may be charged and eventually convicted of DUI violations when prosecution is able to prove the case. Random checks often reveal intoxicated.
Sobriety Checkpoints in Effect
Stops at these checkpoints have police officers looking for impairment of drivers through various observations. This may also be through a search of the person or vehicle for alcohol or items indicative of drug use or related paraphernalia. Signs officers may discover are usually through odors inside the vehicle or associated with the driver or passenger. These may be due to alcohol, drugs or both. Bloodshot eyes are an indication that the driver is under the influence of some substance in some cases.
Another sign that law enforcement agents look for as indicative of drug or alcohol use is slurred or slowed speech. Other signs may include the inability to answer questions, erratic movements and complications with performing actions. When breath tests are performed, levels above or at .08 blood alcohol content percent are usually a precursor to an arrest for DUI charges. Before or after a breath test, field sobriety tests may be administered to determine intoxication.
Sobriety Checkpoint Expectations
In each state that performs these checkpoints, a county, city or town may establish these procedures with a clear plan in place when it is considered necessary. Cooperation from other departments or agencies may work together in these checkpoints to ensure success. Some cities or counties have seasonal checkpoints that are performed each year a certain time, and some have these processes infrequently. Many holidays may see a sobriety checkpoint, but it is when alcohol is known to be present and consumed regularly that these checkpoints are often initiated. Because these procedures must follow certain guidelines, it is sometimes a requirement that they are announced to the public. A local radio station, newspaper or television news station may announce a sobriety checkpoint days or a week in advance. Signs are placed on the road or freeways to indicate a checkpoint is imminent.
Enforcing a Sobriety Checkpoint
Guidelines for states to follow for sobriety checkpoints are offered by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration when establishing and regulating these operations. Checkpoints should regularly be part of a continuing platform to discourage DUI violations and have backing by the judicial system. A plan should be created first and then implemented in creating and following sobriety checkpoints. A plan should also be in place to ensure the proper chemical or field sobriety tests may be administered.
Individuals who are arrested at sobriety checkpoints may seek legal advice from a DUI lawyer.