Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

Checkpoints are a necessary tool for police agencies to both enforce license and registration requirements but are also one of the best ways to detain and arrest impaired drivers. During selected holidays and at other times of the year many cities conduct these checkpoints. Cities get federal grants to run these programs.

The courts have ruled that if the following 7 criteria are followed that the traffic stop and subsequent investigation is a legal use of police power for the public safety. The initial stop and all evidence obtained after the stop cannot be challenged as an illegal search and seizure. Published notice of the checkpoint is not required.

1. The decision to establish the checkpoint, the selection of the site and the procedures for the checkpoint operation should be made and established by supervisory law enforcement personnel.

Elected City officials and the Chief of Police create the checkpoint program. The supervisor of the Police Department Traffic Bureau establishes the individual checkpoint sites and the procedures for their operation.

2. The discretion of the field officers should be limited by using a neutral mathematical selection process for determining which cars to stop.

Each car that enters the checkpoint must present a valid license to a uniformed officer.

3. Safety conditions must be maintained.

Safety measures, in the form of traffic cones, uniformed officers, lighted and unlighted sign boards, marked police vehicles and the selection of the site itself regarding traffic flow and safety are paramount.

4. The location must be reasonable – it should be determined by policy making officials rather than by officers in the field and the site should be one which will be most effective in achieving the governmental interest.

The Police Department Traffic Bureau Supervisor selects the location based on data indicating incidents of accidents and unlicensed drivers.

5. The time and duration of the checkpoint should be reasonable.

The checkpoints are operated for approximately four hours in the A.M. and four hours in the P.M.

6. The checkpoint must have indicia of its official nature.

Several large signs, visible to motorists prior to entering the checkpoint should warn of the checkpoint ahead. Signs within the checkpoint advise motorists to present their license to the officers. Furthermore, all personnel present are in police uniform and all vehicles are marked police vehicles.

7. The length of detention should be reasonable.