Supreme Court Rules on DUI Checkpoints

Georgia DUI Checkpoints

Petitioner’s highway sobriety checkpoint program is consistent with the Fourth Amendment.

A lot of manpower was delegated to this DUI checkpoint, and the cost-effectiveness of this police checkpoint is dubious:

The first – and to date the only – sobriety checkpoint operated under the program was conducted in Saginaw County with the assistance of the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department. During the hour and 15 minute duration of the checkpoints operation, 126 vehicles pass through the checkpoint. The average delay for each vehicle was approximately 25 seconds. Two drivers were detained for field sobriety testing, and one of the two was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. A third driver who drove through without stopping was pulled over by an officer in an observation vehicle, and arrested for driving under the influence.

The dissent was led by Justice Brennan, who founded that the majority “stretched” its facts to overturn the original Michigan OWI case, which had ruled in favor of Mr. Sitz:

Today, the Court rejects a Fourth Amendment challenge to a sobriety checkpoint policy in which police stop all cars and inspect all drivers for signs of intoxication without any individualized suspicion that a specific driver is intoxicated. The Court does so by balancing the State’s interest in preventing drunken driving, the extent to which this system can reasonably be said to advance that interest, and the degree of intrusion upon individual motorists who are briefly stopped.

For the reasons stated by JUSTICE STEVENS in Parts I and II of his dissenting opinion, I agree that the court misapplies that test by undervaluing the nature of the intrusion and exaggerating the law enforcement need to use the roadblocks to prevent drunken driving.

This high court opinion in 1990 has been the modern starting point for most DUI checkpoint analysis. Like this opinion, the nation is divided on the propriety of roadblocks of any type, since no American likes to be stopped, questioned, or detained by police without a good reason to believe that a crime has been committed.

This article was written by Atlanta DUI lawyer William C. Head, whose appellate cases on DUI checkpoints in Georgia have helped established the rules for police checkpoints.