As the end of the year approaches, you’re likely to see some DUI or “sobriety checkpoints” on the roads here in North Carolina and wherever your holiday travels take you. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations (not to mention the football games that accompany them) are occasions for serious drinking for many people. Law enforcement agencies set up these checkpoints as a deterrent to potential drunk drivers and to catch people who are behind the wheel when they shouldn’t be.
Despite complaints that these checkpoints are a violation of people’s Fourth Amendment right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” these checkpoints have been ruled legal by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Search warrants are generally required for a search and/or seizure of property unless there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. One could argue that randomly ordering drivers to pull over and not allowing them to leave until given permission is a seizure of sorts without probable cause.
However, in a 1990 case, the Supreme Court determined that the state’s needs to protect the public against drunk drivers outweighs any intrusion on the rights of drivers not guilty of DUI not to be pulled over. Therefore, it ruled that these checkpoints don’t violate the Fourth Amendment.
If you’re stopped at a DUI checkpoint this holiday season (or any time), arguing with the officers about your constitutional rights isn’t going to make the situation go more smoothly for you. If you’re arrested for suspicion of drunk driving, your best course of action is to seek experienced legal guidance as soon as possible.
All things being equal, a DUI arrest at a checkpoint is just as valid as one where an officer pulls over your vehicle because they suspect you of drunk driving. Experienced DUI attorneys can determine whether arrests were handled properly and work to protect people’s rights as they go through the justice system.