Every now and then the police will set up DUI checkpoints or roadblocks late at night on the weekends. At these roadblocks, the police will stop a vehicle at certain specified intervals (for instance, every 5th vehicle) and check for a driver’s license, insurance and possible impairment from alcohol or drugs. These DUI checkpoints are often set up in areas where people are driving from bars or clubs. Years ago, criminal defense lawyers challenged whether these DUI roadblocks are Constitutional as they are impositions on a person’s freedom without any prior indication that the person is committing a crime or breaking a traffic law. The courts have found that DUI roadblocks are legal but only if they follow certain specific rules and minimize the restraint on a driver’s freedom. One reason for the strict rules for DUI checkpoints is to take a lot of the discretion away from the police officers. The courts want to avoid a situation where the police officers have discretion to do whatever they want at a DUI checkpoint.
In a DUI case south of Jacksonville, Florida the defendant was arrested for DUI after she was stopped at a DUI checkpoint. The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the stop of the defendant, and the evidence of the DUI obtained after the stop, because the DUI roadblock was not conducted according to the strict requirements. Before every DUI checkpoint is set up, the police must prepare a set of written guidelines that will be followed during the DUI roadblock to make sure neutral criteria will be used for stopping the vehicles. In this case, the guidelines were submitted, but they indicated that the police were going to stop every third vehicle unless changed by the supervisor. This is not a legal DUI roadblock. The whole idea is to avoid the use of discretion by the police officers to stop whichever cars they want. If the supervisor can change the rate of stopping vehicles without giving a reason, it gives the police too much discretion. Additionally, the police did not follow the regulations because the DUI roadblock ended at a different time than previously indicated and they began stopping every vehicle after a few hours.
Because the police did not submit proper DUI checkpoint guidelines and did not even follow the ones they did submit, the DUI checkpoint was not legal and the defendant’s DUI case was thrown out.