Traffic in any major city can be a nightmare. The bumper to bumper 5mph on the streets; 15 mph on the freeways can take a toll on anyone’s patience. There is nothing worse than being stuck on the same city block for one half hour to find out that the source of the delay is a DUI checkpoint. Not an accident or construction – but law enforcement officers wanting to search people to see if they are driving impaired. There are more law enforcement searches today than any other time in US history.
In 1984, California began implementing sobriety checkpoints as a means to make sure that impaired drivers were arrested. The Attorney General for the state of California worked with the California Highway Patrol to prepare guidelines for using roadblocks as a means to check driver’s sobriety. The California taxpayers filed suit against the state of California asserting that such roadblocks violated both the California and Federal constitutions. California argued that since certain safeguards were followed in administrating checkpoints and that they were no less obstructive than an airport security screening. Well, it’s pretty obvious who won this legal battle. Such sobriety roadblocks officially became law in the State of California when this battle was settled in 1987.
Later, in 1990 the US Supreme Court endorsed the use of DUI checkpoints by using a balancing test. Basically, the Court stated the need for safety on the road must be balanced with the individual’s right to privacy. The balance favored the public right to safety and DUI checkpoints became legal nationwide. Only a handful of states do not use DUI checkpoints. California, obviously, is not one of those states.
So, not only are DUI checkpoints here to stay but the intrusive nature of the checkpoints are expanding as well. Originally, these checkpoints were focused on testing for alcohol consumption. In the past two years, technology has been expanded to enable law enforcement officers to test for marijuana on the roadside. As such, it is expected that DUI checkpoints to test for marijuana as well.
DUI checkpoints may soon be used to check for contraband. In 2005, The Supreme Court ruled that it’s fine for law enforcement officials to use drug sniffing dogs at a valid police stop. An officer will have probable cause to search a vehicle if the dog alerts that drugs are in the vehicle. So, it can be expected that such dogs will be posted at DUI checkpoints. If an officer has a drug sniffing dog that alerts to a vehicle in a checkpoint, that officer can search the vehicle. Driving through a DUI checkpoint may result in a felony arrest.
So, in closing, DUI checkpoints are here to stay. Stay tuned for the next edition.