How are DUI checkpoints lawful under search and seizure laws?

On behalf of Brian D. Roman, Attorney at Law on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

Most people are aware that law enforcement officials cannot simply arrest people without sufficient justification. The U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment provides protections for every U. S. citizen against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, those rights can be abridged under certain circumstances which allow police sufficient authority to preserve public safety.

One of the ways that law enforcement officials in Massachusetts accomplish the goal of keeping drunk drivers off of the roads is by implementing sobriety checkpoints. Typically, these are temporary roadblocks staffed by police officers looking for signs of driver intoxication. The constitutionality of these roadblocks have been challenged in every state in the Union. In fact, Rhode Island, along with 11 other states, do not allow these types of sobriety checkpoints.

The U. S. Supreme Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Court have both upheld DUI checkpoints as lawful when police conduct them while following specific guidelines. Generally, law enforcement officials are required to provide the public with advance notice of DUI checkpoints. Authorities must also ensure that police do not specifically target individuals and keep their checks random with regard to individuals they select for further investigation.

This can be important if you have been arrested as a result of one of these DUI checkpoints. For example an attorney with experience in Massachusetts DUI laws can investigate whether your stop was lawful under accepted practices. Usually, law enforcement will establish a protocol prior to opening the checkpoint. An example of this might be a memo to officers requiring them to conduct roadside sobriety tests for every fourth driver traveling through the checkpoint.

An attorney representing you can determine whether police carried out those procedures as outlined by departmental regulations, or whether they deviated from those established plans. An attorney can also review public documents and determine whether police provided sufficient advance notice to the public. Prosecutors may be forced to dismiss the charges against you if an attorney is able to establish that your traffic stop was arbitrary or otherwise unlawful.

Source: Worcester.com, "DUI Checkpoint This Weekend: What Are Your Rights?," Nicholas Handy, accessed July 01, 2015