Are Florida DUI Checkpoints Constitutional?
Roadblocks or DUI checkpoints are designed to find and apprehend motorists who are driving under the influence. Checkpoints are commonly used by law enforcement in Florida to curb drunk driving and are, in fact, Constitutional if they are properly conducted. If you were stopped at a checkpoint and arrested for a DUI, it is important to seek counsel from an experienced DUI defense attorney to determine if your arrest was conducted legally and to mount a defense against your charge.
Probable Cause and DUI Checkpoints
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects against illegal search and seizure by the police. For this reason, police must have probable cause that an illegal activity has occurred or that an illegal act is being committed in order to stop and detain a motorist. So, how are checkpoints legal?
The Supreme Court ruled that the service that DUI roadblocks provide to the community exceeds the infringement of the rights provided under the Fourth Amendment. If a checkpoint is established and operated under the guidelines set forth by the courts, its operation is Constitutional and legal.
Guidelines for Florida Checkpoints
Law enforcement is charged with following specific guidelines to ensure that a checkpoint is properly conducted in an area that has seen an uptick in DUI arrests or alcohol-related traffic incidents. The checkpoint must be scheduled and publicized in advance. The area must be conspicuously marked by flashing lights and signs. Law enforcement must also determine in advance which vehicles will be stopped; for example, all vehicles or every other vehicle.
Defending a DUI Checkpoint Arrest
If you are stopped at a Florida checkpoint, the officer may ask you to submit to a breath test or field sobriety tests. A high blood alcohol content reading or a poor performance on the field sobriety tests may result in your arrest. Your defense attorney should examine all of the circumstances surrounding your arrest, including your breath test result and the evaluation of your performance on the field sobriety tests. Your attorney may find that there was police error in conducting these tests, or that a factor outside of your control negatively impacted the results.
Before digging in to the details surrounding your arrest, however, your attorney may also investigate the checkpoint itself to ensure that it was properly conducted and legally established. If law enforcement did not follow all of the checkpoint guidelines, it may be possible for your attorney to have your charge lessened or even dismissed.