Requirements for a DUI Checkpoint

In order for DUI checkpoints to be valid, courts require that the checkpoint be determined by a policy-making official. Other requirements for DUI checkpoints are that it must clearly indicate it is an official stop, and law enforcement officers are not allowed to hold drivers longer than is needed to check for sobriety. Learn more about DUI checkpoint requirements below in our legal guide.

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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: Jul 14, 2021

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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.

What are the requirements for DUI checkpoints?

Sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks include law enforcement officers stopping almost every motor vehicle on a public roadway and examining if the driver might be too impaired to drive due to alcohol or drug consumption. They are often set up in the early morning on days/holidays at which time the proportion of impaired drivers tends to be the highest. If the officer determines that the driver is impaired and has probable cause to arrest the person for driving under the influence, the arrestee will be asked to take an alcohol breath test or a blood test.

In order for a DUI sobriety 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 sobriety 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 an odor of 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.

Can other types of checkpoints 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, using reasonable suspicion, 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, such as a license 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.

There are also U.S. Border Checkpoints where Customs and Border Protection agents can search you and your belongings at the U.S. border without probable cause or a search warrant. So anytime you cross the border, you consent to a search. Agents might generally stop and search the property of anyone entering or exiting the U.S if they believe you’re concealing contraband or weapons.

Getting Legal Help with DUI Checkpoints

One limitation of sobriety checkpoints is the lack of time to observe the driving behavior of intoxicated drivers. Therefore, the officer’s decision is based on a few moments of interaction and conversation with the driver.

States may vary in their laws regarding checkpoint seizures, so it is best for law enforcement to consult with the state statute and applicable case law. 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

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