DUI Sobriety Checkpoints: Key Points to Note

A legal source addressing drunk driving makes a preliminary and notable point.

It stresses that “driving under the influence DUI) charges do not discriminate.”

Motorists across East Tennessee and North Georgia daily find that out. Candidly, law enforcers motivated to stop alleged drunk drivers and secure DUI convictions don’t care a whit about who you are. Police officers pull over doctors, teachers, students, construction workers, accountants, moms, dads and members of every other demographic.

The above-cited source duly notes that interaction with police in a DUI stop is for many people “their first contact with the criminal justice system.”

Sometimes that contact comes at a DUI sobriety checkpoint.

Drunk driving roadblocks: often confusing, unnerving for motorists

Law enforcers employ many tools to identify and arrest alleged drunk drivers. Periodic enforcement campaigns are common. Police agencies occasionally activate roving squads of officers or saturation patrols. And sobriety checkpoints feature in many states.

Including both Tennessee and Georgia. In fact, a sizable majority of American states sanction the use of DUI sobriety checkpoints on various grounds. Tennessee and Georgia authorities deem such roadblocks lawful under both the federal and state constitutions. Roadblock operations are periodically conducted in both states.

Checkpoints are often bewildering and even frightening for many drivers. Motorists sometimes approach them without much – if any – warning. They might be unsure of what’s happening, even as they are directed into a controlled area marked by a prominent police presence. A roadblock serves as a rare instance where law enforcers can sometimes effect an incriminating search and seizure absent initial probable cause to even interact with a citizen.

An in-depth overview of roadblock fundamentals puts it this way: Police can detain drivers “without having reason to believe they did anything wrong.”

The presumption that DUI checkpoints are lawful proceeds from an often-cited U.S. Supreme Court ruling. That holding states that a stop/search that is generally marked by reasonableness is acceptable, given that deterring inebriated motorists is a top-tier public concern. Any temporary inconvenience or intrusion suffered by a driver is outweighed by the urgent need to remove dangerous motorists from the road.

Challenging roadblocks: DUI checkpoints bear close inspection

Every checkpoint merits scrutiny, notwithstanding its presumed legality. Here are some things to look for:

  • rationality, reasonableness concerning roadblock creation, site selection, duration, process for determining detained drivers and so forth
  • confidence given motorists via clear indications of operational legitimacy and neutrality
  • Assurance that no inordinate intrusion on a driver will occur without evidence of intoxication or criminal wrongdoing

Incriminating evidence obtained by police at a checkpoint can be used at trial and/or to secure a conviction.

Conversely, though, it can also be challenged by a proven and aggressive legal defense team. “As with all searches and seizures,” notes the above overview, “the legality of a DUI checkpoint detention depends on the circumstances.”

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