4 Things to Know About DUI Checkpoints

A DUI checkpoint (sometimes referred to as a “sobriety checkpoint”) is a police traffic stop that is not tied to any specific or individual suspicion. Each vehicle that passes through the checkpoint is required to pull over and interact with a police officer, with drivers showing suspicion of intoxication subject to further sobriety tests.

Arguments have been made that such random detentions (even if the detention is very brief) are a violation of constitutional freedoms, in particular the 4th Amendment which protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures. Since every vehicle that passes through a checkpoint is subject to the “search and seizure” actions of the police, there is not, but definition, any reason for any given driver to be stopped and investigated.

On the other hand, there is clear evidence that DUI checkpoints significantly reduce DUI-related deaths. Such argument have made their way to the Supreme Court over the years, with the finding in 1990 that keeping impaired drivers off the road generally outweighs the inconvenience and intrusion to motorists. While this is settled law at a federal level, there are some states in which the practice of random DUI stops and checkpoints is considered to be inconsistent with state constitutions (Iowa and Wisconsin) and statutes (Oregon, Washington and Michigan), and in these states you won’t find DUI checkpoints. Other states permit the practice, but often require that there is some public notice of the timing and location of the checkpoint.

Of course, the lack of random checkpoints does not in any way prevent a police officer from detaining, and arresting if necessary, a driver they suspect of driving under the influence.

If you live in a state where DUI checkpoints occur, there’s a good chance that you’ve experienced one. While sober (which we assume is the case any time you’re driving), it can be an inconvenience, especially if it’s a particularly busy checkpoint which causes more than a few minutes delay. But we can generally accept this inconvenience given the knowledge that it makes our roads safer for ourselves and our families. If you happen to have been drinking, then the appearance of a checkpoint can, very suddenly, portent much more than mere inconvenience, and can ruin not only your night, but perhaps your life.

But whether you’ve been drinking or not, there are a few things that every driver should know to make sure that they are not taken advantage of:

1. DUI checkpoints are intended to test for sobriety

Police must only use a breath test in cases where there is reasonable suspicion of intoxication. This presents a second test of “reasonable” for the police – while in many states they have been given freedom to stop and interview drivers without a reason, you are still protected by your constitutional rights from further unreasonable search and seizure, which would be the case if every single driver was subject to breath alcohol tests.

2. You generally shouldn’t be surprised to see a DUI checkpoint.

It is common for them to be set up when drinking (and therefore drink-driving) is more common, such as New Years Eve, St. Patrick’s Day or other holidays.

3. They should always be set up with safety in mind.

You should not turn a corner and have to quickly apply your brakes at the sight of a police officer standing in the middle of the road waving you (and every other car) down. The checkpoint should be clearly marked, and it should be clear what the purpose of the checkpoint is.

4. Police officers must identify themselves.

They should always be managed by uniformed police officers, and they should not be making any attempt to hide from view or mislead drivers about what they are doing

Of course, if you end up detained due to a DUI charge, we can help you with navigating the posting of your bail and release, allowing you to return home and prepare for the subsequent trial. We are Maryland’s oldest and most trusted bail bonds company. Contact us today or call us at 410-367-2245 if you have questions.