The season for DUI Checkpoints is approaching fast. In The Criminal Nuggets Podcast episode 036, the foundations in the law authorizing DUI checkpoints is logically laid out. Once, this roadmap is established common questions about DUI checkpoints are answered and knocked out of the park.
I created a PDF which lists all the relevant DUI checkpoints cases, including examples of DUI checkpoints that were done wrong.
There are cases in the record of DUI’s getting dismissed because of improperly conducted DUI checkpoints! I also created a chart featuring the main bullet points on a proper DUI checkpoint. To download this PDF click here.
DUI Checkpoint Legal Foundations
People v. Ray
The defendant in People v. Ray was stopped in a drug interdiction checkpoint.
The law enforcement purpose for the traffic stop was to specifically search for and detect illegal drugs. After police dogs “indicated” (positively sniffed) on Ray’s car, he was further detained. His car was searched. Drugs were discovered.
The court said that the police cannot use a traffic checkpoint for this type of generalized crime control.
Generalized crime control, in this context, was defined as situations that specifically target the drivers. The driver’s themselves were being investigated and scrutinized.
Yes, controlling drugs in society is an important state interest. However, the privacy interests of each individual driver was weighed more heavily. If this kind of traffic checkpoint were allowed, their would be no practical restraint on the police.
Police would be to create any number of traffic roadblocks for any reason. Giving police unfettered control over when and where they could set up roadblocks against individual liberty is itself unreasonable.
Illinois v. Lidster
This case reminds us that not every traffic checkpoint is illegal.
In this case, the United States Supreme Court held that a traffic checkpoint set up to gather information on a homicide was permissible. In this type of a situation, the balancing of the interests falls on the side of law enforcement. The state interest was in seeking information on a death after a hit-and-run that occurred the day before the checkpoint was set up.
Investigating a death is a compelling state interest. The individual privacy interest that was being impeded was weighed as being less significant. This side of the scale was affected by the fact that the drivers, themselves, were not the targets of a criminal investigation.
The drivers were merely being asked to provide information. This was something they were likely glad to do. It is reasonable to infringe on individual privacy concerns when the police are conducting a separate high level investigation.
People v. Bartley
People v. Bartley, 109 Ill. 2d 273, 486 N.E.2d 880 (1985).
DUI checkpoints combine factors of both permissible and impermissible traffic roadblocks.
In a DUI checkpoint, the driver is the target. The driver is under investigation. The driver is the focus of police scrutiny. Courts have said this a huge factor for illegality.
On the other hand, the State declares their interest as nothing short of saving lives. They have statistics and examples of the tragedy created by drunk driving. Furthermore, the police can point to spikes in traffic deaths around certain dates on the calendar.
We all know those dates. Reasonableness is ultimately found by weighing the competing interests against each other. The conclusion was that when a DUI checkpoint process is executed correctly by well known guidelines then it is legal.
The guidelines must clearly establish –
- A police hierarchy at the DUI checkpoint
- The process must limit the amount of discretion the police have during the checkpoint
- It must be done safely
- It must be widely publicized
- It must be brief in nature.
(download my PDF summary)
When a DUI checkpoint is organized and executed correctly by law enforcement this outweighs the individual restraints on liberty that occur.
Yes, DUI Checkpoints are Legal
I always think its important to understand the foundations in the law for authorized police activity. When I want to probe the limits of any particularly police action, I start at this foundation.
DUI checkpoints give certain amount of power and authority to the police. This power is not unlimited. There are certain things that can and cannot happen in a DUI checkpoint.
Questions About DUI Checkpoints
1) Do I have to cooperate at all?
2) Do I have to them my driver’s license?
3) Do I have to roll my window down?
4) Can I pull out of the line or avoid the checkpoint?
5) What if the police put a fake or misleading signs?
6) Do I have to answer the police officer’s questions?
7) Do I have to get out of my car?
8) Do I have to do field sobriety tests?
9) Do I have to blow into a portable breath device?
10) Can they have police drug dogs there?
11) Can I still exercise my rights?
This question is not answered in the podcast. However, it is by no means less relevant or important.
12) Can I record my experience with a camera and microphone (to put it on youtube)?
In Illinois, the answer is “yes”. In Illinois eavesdropping is no longer illegal.
Eavesdropping is the ability to audio record a conversation with a person without that person’s permission. Video recording an act in public has always been legal. Therefore, in Illinois you may run a video recorder, with audio, in your car to capture your experience through the roadblock.
Eavesdropping is still illegal in some states. Make sure you know the law in your state before you do something crazy like setting up a video/audio recorder in the car before you enter a DUI checkpoint.
Download the Podcast
Make sure you download this podcast. Have a fun and safe DUI Checkpoint season. Remember police are people too!
Download a comprehensive list of DUI checkpoint cases and a chart with bullet points featuring the correct elements of a DUI checkpoint.