The Supreme Court has ruled that, in most cases, officers must have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before they may pull over motorists. That criminal activity could be completely unrelated to the charged offense (e.g., officers pull over a driver for speeding and arrest her for DUI). Moreover, the Supreme Court has watered down the reasonable suspicion rule in recent years. But, the doctrine still stands.
DUI roadblocks are an exception to the reasonable suspicion rule. Although checkpoint officers may pull over motorists who have done nothing wrong, Dayton criminal defense attorneys can invalidate the stop and arrest, unless the checkpoint meets some strict requirements.
As a brief side note, motorists have rights at DUI checkpoints. They must present certain documents for inspection and obey basic commands. But they need not answer questions and, in fact, need not even roll down their windows.
All matters of checkpoint operation, including the decision to set up a roadblock, must come from a supervisor. Generally, police chiefs and captains are supervisors and everyone else, including lieutenants and sergeants, are subordinates.
The department must publicize the checkpoint enough to warn motorists about the coming roadblock, so they may avoid travel at that place and time. As such, a posting on the department’s Facebook page or Twitter account may not reach enough people. At the minimum, there should probably be a press release.
This broad category includes things like the checkpoint’s location and duration. DUI roadblocks must be in a safe location, such as a major side street, in a part of town where there are normally drunk drivers. Officers may operate these checkpoints for a few hours at a time, but certainly not for days at a time.
DUI roadblocks are nothing like speed traps. Checkpoint officers cannot surprise motorists in any way. The roadblock must have sufficient signage, such as “DUI Checkpoint Ahead,” to alert drivers and inform them as to the nature of the checkpoint. Other signs should give instructions, like “Have Drivers’ License and Proof of Insurance Ready.”
Checkpoint officers cannot randomly stop vehicles. There must be a neutral formula, such as every third vehicle. Officers cannot deviate from the set formula except in specific circumstances. For example, if traffic backs up, officers might have the option to pull over fewer vehicles.
For safety reasons, officers must deploy traffic cones or other such obstacles. These cones must start far away from the checkpoint, so motorists have a chance to turn around before traffic stacks up. If motorists take this option, a patrol car may follow them for several blocks.
There is no hard and fast rule here. But generally, the roadblock cannot hold up motorists for more than about 30 seconds. That includes the time drivers spend waiting in line as well as the time at the checkpoint itself. Anything longer is probably an unreasonable delay.
Team Up with a Dedicated Attorney
DUI checkpoints must meet certain requirements. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Dayton, contact the Comunale Law Office. We routinely handle matters in Montgomery County and nearby jurisdictions.