Law enforcement sets up DUI checkpoints in Pensacola and around Florida to catch drunk drivers with a BAC level above the legal limit. These roadblocks typically increase on holidays because more people could be drunk. However, it has been debated whether or not these checkpoints are constitutional allowing unreasonable searches, though the Supreme Court made them legal in 1990.
The Fourth Amendment and checkpoints
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures. So in most cases, searches and seizures cannot be conducted without a warrant.
Law enforcement can also conduct searches without a warrant under probable cause. However, probable cause requires a good reason to believe a crime has been committed or that evidence of the crime is in plain view. If the court finds the search unreasonable and without probable cause, the case could be thrown out of court or evidence acquired excluded.
Do DUI checkpoints provide probable cause?
DUI checkpoints make an interesting case because drivers cannot leave until the officer says they can. Since suspicion usually does not play a part in pulling the driver over, it may seem probable cause would not apply in these cases.
The Supreme Court employs a balance test to determine if the officer made a reasonable search rather than using probable cause. Some states have decided that reducing drunk driving accidents outweighs any overwhelming intrusion on drivers, even ones who are sober. However, that doesn’t imply officers can set up checkpoints for any reason. The court must decide if the Fourth Amendment legally allows the roadblock.
A DUI conviction can result in fines and jail time. DUI checkpoint laws can be complex, so having the assistance of a criminal defense attorney may be advisable.