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DUI & DWI Checkpoints Not Always Legal

DUI & DWI Checkpoints Not Always Legal

Although DUI checkpoints are commonplace in many states; there are some states where they are not legal. According to the Governors' Highway Safety Association, only 38 states conduct sobriety checkpoints. The remaining 12 states do not use sobriety checkpoints for a variety of reasons.

DUI Checkpoints Not Allowed Within Some State Boundaries

The legality problem arises from the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that unreasonable searches of U.S. citizens are forbidden. A search is unreasonable unless law enforcement authorities have probable cause or reasonable suspicion based on facts that a crime has occurred. A driver who pulls up to a DUI checkpoint and has not been demonstrating any aberrant behavior, such as weaving in and out of traffic, arguably has not provided authorities with probable cause allowing them to test him or her for DUI. A 1990 U.S. Supreme Court case did rule that DUI checkpoints in Michigan were legal. Yet some states have decided nonetheless that DUI checkpoints are not allowed within their boundaries.

Some States Outlawing DUI Checkpoints

Alaska does not have DUI checkpoints for one simple reason: Nothing in its state laws allows it to conduct them. Texas does not have them for a different reason: It believes they are prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in Michigan they were permitted, the Texas courts found that in Michigan there is also a state law that authorized the checkpoints. There is no such law in Texas, and without it, Texas says they would violate the U.S. Constitution.

Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington interpret their state constitutions as outlawing them. Michigan has determined that its state constitution precludes DUI checkpoints even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that they were allowed by the U.S. Constitution. Idaho and Wisconsin have specific state statutes that outlaw the use of roadblocks for DUI enforcement.

The remaining three states have decided that state laws allowing the police to set up roadblocks for safety purposes do not go as far as to allow police to set up DUI checkpoints. Iowa, Montana, and Wyoming courts have ruled that although the police do have the right to set up roadblocks for safety purposes, these do not include DUI enforcement.