Category Archives: DUI Law

Police Using DUI Roadblocks Illegally

A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court found yet another “DUI Exception the Constitution” in permitting police to set up roadblocks — even though they admittedly violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against stopping citizens without probable cause.  See my earlier post DUI Sobriety Checkpoints: Unconstitutional?  The Court, of course, was careful to restrict the use of such roadblocks to apprehension of drunk drivers exclusively.


I predicted that this pathetic Rehnquist decision would prove yet another tool for police to circumvent the Constitution in non-DUI situations — resulting in a continuing erosion of that great document through a growing list of exceptions and word games.  And this has repeatedly proven to be the case.  From yesterday’s news:

Police At DUI Checkpoints Find More Than Drunk Drivers

Johnson County, KY   Dec. 3  — Police at DUI checkpoints in one eastern Kentucky county find more than drunk drivers.

Police say they found marijuana and prescription pills in three un-related cases.  Five suspects are in jail after sheriff deputies say they caught them red-handed with drugs, but some of the suspects put up a fight and tried to escape.

Johnson County Sheriff deputies say they noticed more traffic than usual on Highway 11-07 in Thelma.

After complaints from neighbors, deputies set up a DUI checkpoint to find out what was going on…

Officers call the checkpoint a success, “Nine bags of marijuana were taken off the streets and that means there’s nine bags of marijuana that won’t go into the hands of children in the Thelma area or Johnson County,” Sgt. Wyatt said 

“…deputies set up a DUI checkpoint to find out what was going on”.  And the reporter didn’t even notice anything wrong with that.

DUI Survey — or Roadblock?

As if unconstitutional police "sobriety checkpoints" weren’t enough, we now have privately-run but police-enforced roadblocks:

Alcohol Surveys Spur Complaints

A motorist who was stopped wants a halt to voluntary testing that is so "persistent" it feels like a DUI checkpoint. 

Denver, CO.  Sept. 18  -  The Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office was apologizing Monday after a weekend effort to help a research group led to complaints about what appeared to be a DUI checkpoint – but wasn’t.

Sheriff’s officials who participated in the stops now acknowledge that the nonprofit organization requesting voluntary DUI and drug tests from drivers was overly persistent, according to complaints.

Sgt. Bob Enney said deputies assisted the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in stopping motorists at five sites along Colorado 119 for surveys on any drug and alcohol use. Surveyors then asked the motorists to voluntarily submit to tests of their breath, blood and saliva. At least 200 drivers were tested, Enney said. About five motorists later complained, he said.

Pacific Institute officials defended the initiative. They said the collection of vital statistics measuring, over time, the number of people driving under the influence helps gauge the impact of laws and enforcement policy changes.

"We’ve been literally surveying thousands of people," said John Lacey, the director of the Alcohol, Policy and Safety Research Center in Calverton, Md., through which Pacific Institute conducted its research. "So you can imagine if you stop people in the middle of the night, there will be complaints."…

Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said the participation of sheriff’s officials and the blue jumpsuits worn by the survey team may have confused some of those who were stopped.

And what do you think those deputy sheriffs would have done if any of those motorists had tested positive or had alcohol on his breath?  And doesn’t that make it an unauthorized de facto police DUI roadblock?  So…If police can’t get authorization for a roadblock, why not just set up a "survey" roadblock?

(Thanks to David O’Shea and Jeanne M. Pruett.)

Purpose of DUI Roadblocks: “Shock and Awe”

As I've indicated repeatedly in the past, DUI roadblocks (or to use the more politically correct term, "sobriety checkpoints") are proven to be ineffective and are used primarily as a dragnet to raise revenue from citations for traffic, license/registration and equipment violations.  Law enforcement agencies are finally ending the pretense that roadblocks are effective at catching drunk drivers (the basis for the Supreme Court upholding this Fourth Amendment violation) but are now justifying them as "deterrence" (i.e., frightening people). 

Sobriety Roadblocks

They're praised as a deterrent but don't yield the most arrests

Mechanicsville, VA.  June 17  –  It was Friday, the opening night of the long Memorial Day weekend — prime time for nailing drunken drivers.

From 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. officers funneled nearly 800 cars through a sobriety checkpoint at the Hanover-Henrico county line on U.S. 360…

Before the evening was over, Hanover deputies had issued 33 summonses and arrested an additional 14 people on other offenses ranging from drugs to outstanding warrants on immigration violations…

Immobile, expensive and labor-intensive, sobriety checkpoints are the fishing net of roadway law enforcement — catching everyone who enters but keeping only the violators, including impaired motorists.

"DUI road checkpoints, in and of themselves, are not necessarily designed to catch people under the influence," said Sgt. Rob Netherland, who supervises DUI checkpoints and patrols for Henrico County.

But Netherland and other officials say checkpoints do provide a worthwhile deterrent against people getting behind the wheel after they drink — a complement to the mobile and focused "saturation patrols," in which officers hit the road and actively target motorists whose driving suggests they may be under the influence.

"It's kind of like shock and awe," Hanover County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Mike Trice said of checkpoints…

In 2006, Henrico County police conducted eight sobriety checkpoints, resulting in 23 DUI arrests — a small number compared with the 855 DUI convictions the county recorded that year from arrests on routine patrols and other anti-drinking initiatives.

The Hanover Sheriff's Office ran four sobriety checkpoints in 2006, yielding 12 DUI arrests. The county recorded 337 DUI convictions that year.

Four sobriety checkpoints run by Richmond Police last year netted three DUI arrests in a city that recorded 590 DUI convictions, though officers made 170 arrests on related and unrelated offenses.

OK, Sobriety Checkpoints Are Ineffective, but…

Another news story about another ineffective DUI roadblock…

DUI Checkpoint Comes Up Empty

Oxford, Ohio. March 8 – Officers stopped 225 vehicles from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. along High Street in the Miami University area looking for drunk or drug-impaired drivers — and found none.

Lt. Wayne Price of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Hamilton Post says that’s great.

“The goal of the checkpoint is to act as a deterrent,” he said.

Funny, I thought the purpose of DUI roadblocks was to identify and apprehend drunk drivers.

Officers wrote 25 citations for offenses such as failure to wear seat belts or driving without a valid driver’s license.

To try to catch those who drink and drive but avoid the checkpoint area, officers conducted a “saturation patrol,” Price said.Those patrols stopped 60 vehicles during the three-hour span for minor traffic infractions and issued citations or warnings for infractions such as failing to use turn signals.

In permitting this unconstitutional practice, the U.S. Supreme Court in Michigan v. Sitz accepted the argument that the effectiveness of roadblocks in detecting and apprehending drunk drivers outweighed the admitted violation of the Fifth Amendment (see my earlier post “DUI Sobriety Checkpoints: Unconstitutional?”). Now that it has become apparent that they are ineffective for anything but raising revenue for local municipalities, police have changed the justification: “deterrence” (a safe claim since it can never be disproven).

If the police can set up unconstitutional roadblocks because they deter DUIs, why can’t they conduct random searches of citizens on the streets or in their homes to deter, say, possession of drugs?


The True Purpose of DUI Roadblocks

As I’ve commented repeatedly in the past, roadblocks ("sobriety checkpoints") are (1) unconstitutional, (2) ineffective at catching drunk drivers, and (3) used primarily to raise revenue for local municipalities…

DUI Checkpoint Impounds 32 Vehicles

Escondido, CA. Jan. 13 – Escondido police impounded 32 vehicles and arrested four people at a drunken driving checkpoint, a lieutenant said Saturday.

Police withheld the names of three people arrested on suspicion of drug possession and one person booked on suspicion of drunken driving during the operation at El Norte Parkway and Ash Street between 6 p.m. and midnight Friday.

Of about 1,600 vehicles that passed through the checkpoint, 931 drivers were screened and 82 were pulled aside because they could not produce a license or were suspected of being under the influence, according to a lieutenant. Police impounded 32 because the driver had no license or a suspended or revoked one, police said.

In some cases, those vehicles can be sold to satisfy fines and impound fees. Police also ticketed 53 drivers for various offenses.

1600 citizens stopped…1 DUI arrest…and a lot of money from tickets and impounds for the City of Escondido.