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Does a DUI checkpoint violate your Fourth Amendment rights?

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2023 | Criminal Defense

As the 2023 holiday season unfolds, there will no doubt be an uptick of traffic stops in New Hampshire and across the country. You might be one of thousands of people who the police will stop for speeding, not coming to a full halt at a stop sign, driving with a non-functioning brake light or numerous other legitimate reasons. You might also end up in a line of cars that police are stopping at a DUI checkpoint.

This is basically a roadblock that police officers create to stop random drivers for a drunk driving test. During such stops, police might ask you questions, such as whether you’ve consumed any alcohol before driving. They might also ask you to submit to a breath test or step out of your vehicle to take a field sobriety test.

DUI checkpoints may not violate your Fourth Amendment rights

Many people have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints. Under normal circumstances, police must have a legitimate reason for making a traffic stop, such as those mentioned earlier in this blog post. Such people say that stopping a line of vehicles at a checkpoint fails to establish reasonable cause for individual drivers and is therefore a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects you against unlawful searches or seizures.

If the police stop you, they are detaining you. This is a type of seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that officers may execute DUI checkpoints lawfully by adhering to stringent policies. Such policies include not targeting certain groups of people; however, if officers determine ahead of time that they will randomly stop every fifth or sixth car, and you are the driver of the fifth or sixth car in line, they can stop you.

Laws vary by state regarding police roadblocks

Each state has its own protocol and regulations regarding DUI checkpoints. In New Hampshire, police must obtain judicial approval before setting up a sobriety checkpoint. If an officer stops you and subsequently arrests and charges you with drunk driving but he or she did not have judicial approval for the checkpoint, you have grounds for challenging the case.

In addition to judicial approval, police must adhere to other regulations as well. Such regulations include issuing public notice ahead of time that they are planning a DUI checkpoint for a specific location, date and time. Remember that a sobriety checkpoint does not negate your Fourth Amendment rights, which include the right to decline when asked to take a field sobriety test. If you are facing DUI charges in New Hampshire and believe a violation of the Fourth Amendment occurred, you may address the matter in court.

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