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Rose Law Firm of Napa Valley, Inc.

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What Should I do if I’m Stopped at a DUI Checkpoint?

| Feb 17, 2015 | Uncategorized |

Thirty-eight states (which do not include Minnesota based upon our state Constitution – see Ascher v. Comm. of Public Safety, 519 N.W.2d 183 (1994); Gray v. Comm. of Public Safety, 519 N.W.2d 187 (1994)) allow DUI checkpoints. A checkpoint is basically a roadblock where the police stop and check each driver’s license while at the same time seeing if they notice any signs of intoxication (watery, bloodshot eyes, smell alcohol, slurred speech, open bottle violation, see or smell drugs…) as the driver passes through the roadblock. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that DUI checkpoints are not a violation of a person’s 4th amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The court found that the roadblock is a seizure where drivers are detained for a brief period of time. But, it also found that the state has a “grave and legitimate interest” in protecting the public from drunk drivers. Applying a balancing test of these competing interests, the court determined the limitation on each driver’s freedom was constitutional given the stronger governmental interests in the use of the checkpoint.

A Florida lawyer is advising that drivers entering one of these roadblocks hold up a sign like this one: Copyright: fairdui.org – Warren Redlich, Esq.[/caption]

This is interesting because the government’s ability to search is limited to the reason for the stop. For example, if the police stop you for a broken tail light, they can’t legally search your trunk for drugs based on that tail light alone. If police at a checkpoint are basically allowed to check driver’s license and have no other reason to stop your vehicle other than you happened to be going down that road, I think these “No Search” signs will prevent the police from gaining any evidence they otherwise might obtain in speaking with a driver.

In Minnesota, a police officer must have “reasonable articulable suspicion” to stop a vehicle, making roadblock DUI checkpoints illegal. However, lots of police do special DUI patrols where they strictly enforce traffic laws to allow them to make traffic stops in hopes of discovering a DUI situation. Based on a reason for the stop being something other than suspicion of DUI, and then the driver remaining silent, providing their license only, and demanding a lawyer be present for any questioning, use of these types of signs in Minnesota would drastically limit a police officer’s ability to discover criminal driving behavior.

Groups like MADD have previously made lobbying efforts trying to change Minnesota’s Constitution. What do you think?