Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 15, 2020

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Not all states permit law enforcement to conduct DUI checkpoints. Those states that do permit drunk driving checkpoints have very specific rules for conducting and enforcing them that police officers must follow. If the DUI checkpoint meets your state’s requirements, then law enforcement officers can stop you to determine if you are driving while intoxicated. Failure to set up a valid DUI checkpoint can result in a suppression of evidence and a dismissal of a DUI case.

Requirements for DUI Checkpoints

In order for a DUI checkpoint to be valid, courts require that the checkpoint be determined by a policy-making official and it must be reasonable in both its creation and operation. The official must show a logical reason why a DUI checkpoint was needed at the location they selected in order to justify their intrusion of your constitutional rights, and must show that the officers conducting the checkpoint followed procedure. Courts generally require a number of factors to be satisfied for a DUI checkpoint to meet the necessary criteria:

  • The decision to establish the checkpoint, the selection of the site, and the procedures for operation are established by supervisory law enforcement personnel. This means that a couple of officers can’t just decide to set up a DUI checkpoint whenever they would like to. They must get approval from a supervisor first.

  • Motorists are stopped according to a neutral formula. This means that an officer can’t randomly stop you at a DUI checkpoint. They have to use the same standard for all of the cars that come through.

  • Adequate safety precautions are taken, such as proper lighting, warning signs, and signals, and whether clearly identifiable official vehicles and personnel are used. Essentially, officers have to clearly identify themselves. The DUI checkpoint cannot be another version of a speed trap.

  • The manner in which a checkpoint was conducted and its duration reflect good judgment on the part of law enforcement officials. This is an incredibly subjective element, but nonetheless, the officers have to show that the length of the DUI checkpoint was reasonable. They are not allowed to operate a DUI checkpoint for days on end.

  • The checkpoint must exhibit sufficient indication of its official nature in order to reassure motorists of the authorized nature of the stop. The DUI checkpoint must be clearly identified as a DUI checkpoint. The checkpoint cannot be a random checkpoint for anything the officers feel like investigating.

  • Whether the average length and nature of detention is minimized. Law enforcement must set up procedures to make sure that they are not holding you longer than needed.

  • Whether the checkpoint is preceded by publicity.

Finally, for a DUI checkpoint to be valid, law enforcement must advertise that they will be setting up the checkpoint prior to doing so. The general idea is that if a member of the public knows about the checkpoint, they have the option of avoiding it. If they choose not to avoid it, then they have consented to the minimal intrusion created by the DUI checkpoint. 

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DUI Checkpoints and State Law

Every state has its own set of standards for permissible DUI checkpoints. During a DUI checkpoint, law enforcement can only do what the law permits them to do. This generally involves running a background check for warrants, verifying that you have a valid driver’s license, and whether you are under the influence of alcohol (or some other substance) such that you are not in a condition to drive. This may involve you performing some type of field sobriety tests if they detect alcohol on your breath. Law enforcement officers cannot require you to do more than what is within the scope of the purpose of the DUI checkpoint. For example, they cannot require all of the motorists to consent to a search of their vehicles in order to make it through the DUI checkpoint. 

Other Types of Checkpoints Can Check for DUI

Some states do not permit DUI checkpoints. However, they will usually permit other types of checkpoints, like an administrative checkpoint to verify license and insurance. If during one of these checkpoints, an officer notices that you may be intoxicated, they can begin a DUI investigation, even though the checkpoint is not a DUI checkpoint. 

Regardless of whether the checkpoint is a DUI checkpoint or some other type of checkpoint, failure to comply with the state requirements can result in a suppression of the evidence to be used against you. If the evidence against you is suppressed, then the case against you will likely be dropped or dismissed. 

Getting Legal Help with DUI Checkpoints

If you have been arrested at a DUI checkpoint stop, contact a DUI attorney as soon as possible. A DUI attorney can review the requirements in your state for DUI checkpoints and determine if your rights have been violated.  

Related Articles:
First DUI: What You Should Know
The Advantages of Hiring a Drunk Driving Attorney
How to Hire a DUI Attorney