Are DUI Checkpoints Constitutional?
You may never have run across a DUI checkpoint, but you have heard of them. Law enforcement agencies in Georgia and beyond run these checkpoints as a way to get drunk drivers off the road. While many people feel that these are an appropriate safety measure, others question the legality of what can amount to a feeling of entrapment. DUI checkpoints are most common around holidays, but can be held at any time of year.
DUI checkpoints not only catch drunk drivers, but they tie up innocent people who just happen to turn down the wrong street. When sober drivers are held up at a checkpoint, questions of constitutionality are often raised. These questions were raised in the highest court in the land, which ruled in 1990 that DUI checkpoints are perfectly legal. Even though the Supreme Court has said that checkpoints are a valid way to enforce laws, some citizens still disagree. Whether you agree with this method of enforcement or not, DUI checkpoints are here to stay.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches. According to that legal document, people are also protected from illegal seizure of property. If, however, a search is based upon reasonable or probable cause, no warrant is required. Some in the legal community believe that being forced to pull over at a checkpoint is a type of seizure. Because people are pulled over at random or, in some cases, because every person is pulled over, there is not always probable cause.
The Supreme Court decided that the type of seizure that occurs at a checkpoint is minimally invasive. This, then, strikes a sort of balancing act to the probable cause standard. People being slightly inconvenienced is acceptable because it is in effort to protect the larger public from harm. In their opinion, the Justices sitting on the Supreme Court said that DUI checkpoints did not violate the Fourth Amendment because the prevention of drunk driving related accidents outweighed the inconvenience experienced by some drivers.
Ultimately, DUI checkpoints in Atlanta and elsewhere are perfectly legal. You may be pulled over, you may even be inconvenienced in such a way that you are late for an appointment, meeting or work, but the police have every right to stop you without you having displayed any of the tell-tale signs of driving under the influence. That said, you do have rights. The Supreme Court also ruled that any DUI checkpoint must be announced, giving people fair notice. Police say that even the mention of a DUI checkpoint is enough to stop some people from drinking and driving.
Regardless of what the Supreme Court has said, you should still seek the advice of an experienced driving under the influence attorney if you are caught up in a DUI checkpoint. An attorney can review the details of your arrest and help you determine your best defense. Reach out to the team at Hawkins Spizman Kilgo for a free case evaluation.