DUI Checkpoints

Are DUI Checkpoints a Scam?

Police have been getting alot of press lately with the recent incidents in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities across the United States. There is no doubt that every civil society must have a police force to investigate crimes and catch criminals and keep streets safe for everyone But what happens when the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens are blatantly infringed upon by the same police force that is there to “protect and serve”?

DUI checkpoints have become commonplace across the country for rooting out the drunk drivers that make our roads a dangerous place for those that follow the law and do not drink and drive. But do these DUI checkpoints go too far in their attempt to catch DUI offenders?

In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that, despite their “intrusion on individual liberties,” being stopped in a DUI checkpoint does not violate a person’s Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Not all states implement DUI checkpoints as a matter of course, but many do.

Michigan’s courts ruled in favor of drivers who called foul on DUI checkpoints, but the federal courts did not agree. In a split ruling, the federal court overruled the Michigan Court’s decision and determined that DUI checkpoints were, indeed, legal under federal law. Despite finding that roadblocks did meet the Fourth Amendment’s definition of an unreasonable seizure, the court found that, due to the threat a drunk driver imposes on other motorists, they were a necessary means of protection.

Even with this Supreme Court ruling, many drivers continue to challenge the legality of DUI checkpoints. Youtube is littered with videos that involved drivers exercising what they believe to be their Constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen.

So the question persists: are DUI checkpoints unconstitutional? And if local and state law enforcement agencies receive federal funds for the implementation of DUI checkpoints, are they monetarily incentivized to set up roadblocks and DUI checkpoints making them nothing more than a money-making scam?

Watch the video below and you decide whether you believe that DUI checkpoints have gone way too far in violating the rights of law-abiding citizens. (Note that this individual was released without question soon after the officers realized their actions were on video)

Criminal Defense Kalamazoo MI

Why DUI Checkpoints Are Announced to the Public

As each year passes, police departments across the country increase their enforcement of drunk driving by setting up DUI checkpoints, especially around major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. They work hard to establish patrols and plan exactly where and when these checkpoints will be set up.

Then they do something that many drivers are completely unaware of – they announce to the public exactly what they are doing.


Doesn’t this seem a bit counterproductive in the war on drunk driving?

One would certainly think so, but the reality is that the Supreme Court of the United States made announcing DUI checkpoints a federal law for all but 10 states. But it wasn’t always this way.

Prior to 1990, police departments could set up checkpoints anywhere at anytime to catch unsuspecting drivers. The element of surprise was the most valuable tool police had in the DUI wars. Not anymore.

In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that DUI checkpoints were indeed constitutional, but only within certain “guidelines”. These guidelines included the necessity for police to publicize ahead of time when and where they would be.

A police officer needs a valid reason to pull over a driver, or the stop would be considered illegal. Today, the majority of police departments advertise checkpoints as a way of giving fair notice to the general public on what they are up to.

In the 1990 case, the Michigan appeals court had ruled that DUI checkpoints violated the Fourth Amendment before the U.S. Supreme Court overruled, using a balancing act to determine that the dangers posed by drunk driving outweighed the Fourth Amendment intrusion.

Interestingly, when the case was sent back to the Michigan Supreme Court, justices there effectively side-stepped the U.S. Supreme Court decision by ruling that sobriety checkpoints violated their state constitution.

Ten other states, including Rhode Island, have similar bans on sobriety checkpoints, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This map from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows in which state sobriety checkpoints are legal. Those in red are legal, those in pink are not.

As you can see from the graphic above, the majority of states in the U.S. are fair game for DUI checkpoints.  They are also the same states that must publicly announce when and where they will be conducting these checks.

Amazingly enough, even considering the fact that police departments must make checkpoints public knowledge, arrests continue to be significant.

So can Michigan drivers rest easy?  Hardly.  Police are good at their jobs and if you find yourself driving after a heavy evening of drinking, chances are good that you will be caught.

Click here for more information on the 1990 ruling on DUI Checkpoints.


Halloween Checkpoint Honors Memory of 12 Year Old Girl

Las Vegas police know all too well what can happen when drunk drivers hit the road on Halloween. On October 31st, 2011, a 12 year old girl, Faith Love, was killed by a drunk driver while trick-or-treating. To honor her memory, they set up a DUI checkpoint to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Holidays traditionally bring out alcohol impaired drivers – even on Halloween. Police know that Halloween marks the beginning of a dangerous period of the year where there is plenty of opportunity to get behind the wheel after having a few drinks.

Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and New Year’s all fall during this period, so if you plan on celebrating with family and friends with a few drinks and merriment, make it a point to designate a driver if you plan on doing any traveling.

In honor of Faith Love, Las Vegas Law enforcement officers did saturation patrols in town and throughout the valley on Halloween. They were looking for any possible signs that a driver should not be behind the wheel.

Read more here…

Do DUI Checkpoints in Michigan Violate Your Basic Rights?

People often ask the question whether DUI checkpoints violate basic rights that are granted to U.S. citizens by the Constitution that was established by the founding fathers.

The 4th amendment states…

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This amendment protects all United States citizens from being stopped without a search warrant or at least “probable cause” that they have committed a crime.

So why do we have DUI checkpoints in Michigan that do just the opposite?

Most Michigan residents are unaware of the fact that The Michigan Supreme Court found sobriety checkpoints to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment. This means that the Michigan Supreme court does not allow for Michigan police to set up DUI checkpoints.

However, in a split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Michigan court.

They did acknowledge however that DUI roadblocks violate a fundamental constitutional right, Chief Justice Rehnquist argued that they are necessary in order to reduce the frequency of drunk driving. In other words, he argued that that the “end justifies the means.

This argument is often referred to as “the DUI exception to the Constitution.”

Not all judges agreed with this argument.

Some emphasized that the Constitution does not and should not provide exceptions.

One could make the claim that stopping every car on the road would make it that much easier to prevent people from driving after they have been drinking. But the argument can be made that this notion is an insufficient justification for abandoning the requirement of individualized suspicion.

Chief Justice Rehnquist insisted that a DUI roadblock is an “exception” of a person’s constitutional rights because these tactics are an effective and necessary deterrent.

While the U.S. Supreme Court has made the DUI exemption to the Constitution, eleven states have found that sobriety checkpoints violate their own state constitutions or have outlawed them. In these states, individuals have more protections against unreasonable search and police sobriety roadblocks are prohibited.

The bottom line is this: Don’t drink and drive!

If you have been stopped and need help, call us at 616-541-6134 for a free DUI consultation.

312 Fulton Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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