The Legality of DUI Checkpoints by Broward County DUI Attorney, Michael A. Dye

DUI Checkpoints are a controversial method of enforcing DUI laws. While many individuals consider these random warrantless stops offensive, most consider DUI checkpoints to be a legal approach to enforcing the law. What most people don’t understand is that DUI checkpoints must meet an extensive amount of criteria in order to be considered constitutional. If a checkpoint is not conducted in a constitutional manner, all evidence from the DUI checkpoint is generally suppressed.

The following is a quick description of the issues that are present in checkpoint cases. It is easy to see that this can be an especially complicated area of law, but a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney with experience litigating checkpoint issues can get some great results.

Pursuant to the United States Constitution, a search or seizure is unreasonable in the absence of individualized suspicion of wrongdoing subject to certain limited and well defined exceptions. A police checkpoint for the purposes of a license and registration check and/or even a sobriety checkpoint can be constitutional dependent upon the way in which the checkpoint is setup and conducted. When considering a challenge to a checkpoint, the reviewing court must undertake a two-part inquiry to see whether the checkpoint meets constitutional requirements: (1) court must first determine the primary programmatic purpose of the checkpoint program; and (2) once a legitimate primary programmatic purpose is determined, the court must also analyze whether the checkpoint was reasonable by weighing the public’s interest in the checkpoint against the intrusion on the defendant’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments privacy interests.

The Court must examine all available evidence to see the primary purpose of a checkpoint. The United States Supreme Court has stated that a trial court may not simply accept the State’s invocation of a proper purpose, but must carry out an in depth review of the scheme at issue. See Ferguson v. City of Charleston, 532 U.S. 67, 81, 121 S.Ct. 1281, 1290, 149 L.Ed.2d 205, 218(2001).

The Court’s inquiry doesn’t end with the finding of a permissible purpose. If a proper programmatic purpose is found, the Court must determine that the checkpoint was conducted in a reasonable manner. The checkpoint has to be judged on the basis of the individual circumstances. See Illinois v. Lidster, 540 U.S. 419, 427, 124 S.Ct. 885, 890, 157 L.Ed.2d 843, 852(2004).

There’s a three part test to determine the reasonableness of a checkpoint. See Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 50, 99 S.Ct. 2637, 2640, 61 L.Ed.2d 357, 361(1979). The court must look to “(1) the gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure, (2) the degree to which the seizure advances the public interest, and (3) the severity of the interference with individual liberty.” Lidster, 540 U.S. at 427, 124 S.Ct. at 890, 157 L.Ed.2d at 852 quoting Brown, 443 U.S. at 51, 99 S.Ct. At 2640, 61 L.Ed.2d at 362. The second element of a reasonable checkpoint requires the police narrowly tailor the checkpoint to serve the primary programmatic purpose. See Lidster at 427. Without tailoring, “it is possible a roadblock purportedly established to check licenses could be located and conducted in such a way as to facilitate the detection of crimes unrelated to licensing.” See LaFarve 10.8(a), at 347-48.