The legality of every sobriety check point should be closely reviewed as every citizen of the United States has the right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure.
Based on the strict interpretation of the United States Constitution, police officers do not have the right to stop anyone without clearly defined reasons. The officer must witness something that leads him or her to believe that a driver may be driving under the influence. Therefore, it does not seem that a DUI checkpoint would be legal since the authorities are merely stopping anyone and everyone without cause and then conducting a search.
The legality of Sobriety Check Points
In the supreme court case of Michigan v. Sitz (496 U.S. 444) the Supreme Court found that as long as certain safeguards were in place a check point could be considered constitutionally valid because they (check points) are intended to both deter and apprehend drivers operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
In the California Supreme Court case of Ingersoll v. Palmer, 743 P.2d 1299 (Cal 1987) the California Supreme Court defined specific eight factors to be considered when reviewing the validity of a sobriety checkpoint. Those factors are:
1. Law enforcement decision powers concerning the implementation of the sobriety checkpoint be made at a supervisory level.
2. Discretion of the non-supervisory police officer is limited.
3. The location and system where the checkpoint is held must be safe for motorists.
4. The location for the checkpoint must be reasonable.
5. Time and duration of the checkpoint is limited and short term.
6. There is an official nature of the roadblock.
7. The duration and nature of the detention or stop is reasonable and not excessive.
8. Advance publicity.
All eight factors need not be found.
If it can be established that the police failed to follow the constitutional rules for sobriety check points the potential exists to get your charges dropped.
Not all sobriety check points are the same. In fact, many violate the Constitution in the way they are set up and/or operated. Through careful scrutiny and a willingness to sort through all of the case law and other factors related to sobriety check points, a dedicated and experienced DUI defense attorney can help you avoid being a victim of severe driving under the influence penalties.