A sobriety checkpoint is a police roadblock where law enforcement randomly checks certain vehicles and look for signs of alcohol impairment. Also called DWI checkpoints, not all states allow these traffic roadblocks as they have been found to violate state constitutional laws. Even in states where they are allowed, sobriety checkpoints generally have to meet certain guidelines and requirements to be legal.
If you were arrested on suspicion of a DWI, talk to your experienced Odessa DWI defense lawyer about your legal rights and the defenses to fight a criminal conviction.
Are DWI Checkpoints Legal in Texas?
Texas does not use DWI roadblocks. In a 1991 court decision, the Court of Appeals of Texas found a Dallas area DWI checkpoint was illegal because the state had not developed a system in place that authorized the use of DWI checkpoints. However, it may be important for drivers in Texas to understand how other states operate DWI checkpoints, including Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and New Mexico.
Police Traffic Stops After Leaving a Bar or Concert
Sometimes police officers are waiting outside popular event venues, including bars, stadiums, football games, concerts, fairs, rodeos, and festivals throughout Texas. It may seem like the police could be pulling over cars at random. However, the police only need reasonable suspicion or probable cause to conduct a traffic stop.
The police can often find a number of reasons to pull a vehicle over and stop the driver long enough to look for signs of intoxication. This includes minor traffic infractions or violations, including:
- Driving at night without headlights,
- Cracked windshield,
- Broken taillight,
- Burned out taillight,
- Rolling through a stop sign,
- Window-tint violations, or
- Expired registration.
The police must have articulable facts to justify a traffic stop. If the driver did not violate any traffic laws or there were no articulable facts that there is criminal activity, the traffic stop may be a violation of the driver's constitutional rights. A driver who is illegally stopped or searched may be able to challenge any evidence gathered during and after the traffic stop.
Constitutional Requirements for DUI Checkpoints in Other States
When driving in another state, drivers from Texas should be aware that other jurisdictions have sobriety checkpoints and regularly use them as a way to look for drivers who may have consumed alcohol.
In the Supreme Court case Michigan v. Sitz, the court ruled that sobriety checkpoints did not violate the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court held that DUI checkpoints are “administrative inspections,” instead of regular traffic stops that require probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
However, checkpoints generally need to follow certain criteria to make sure the checkpoint remains valid. This includes:
- The checkpoint is selected and procedures are established by supervisory level law enforcement;
- The checkpoint is located in a reasonable location;
- Vehicles are stopped using a neutral system;
- Safety precautions are in place, including lighting, warning signs, clearly identified law enforcement vehicles and personnel;
- The checkpoint is limited to a reasonable duration;
- The vehicles are stopped for a minimal amount of time; and
- There is advanced notice of the checkpoints to the public.
Why do police announce in advance where DWI checkpoints will be?
According to law enforcement and the NHTSA, one of the most important benefits of using checkpoints is the deterrent effect. If drivers know that law enforcement use checkpoints they may be less likely to drink and drive out of concern they could hit a checkpoint on the way home.
Which States Use DUI Checkpoints?
A number of states continue to use DUI checkpoints. In most cases, these checkpoints have been challenged in state courts and have been found to be legal under state laws. The Supreme Court has ruled that DUI checkpoints do not violate U.S. constitutional rights, under certain restrictions.
Some states that use DUI checkpoints include:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
Resourceful Odessa, Texas DWI Lawyer
An experienced DWI defense attorney can help you build a defense that gives you the best shot at a favorable outcome, including challenging a traffic stop or probable cause for arrest.
If you've been charged with a DWI in Odessa, Texas, the Law Office of E. Jason Leach, PLLC is here to fight for you. E. Jason Leach is a board-certified criminal defense attorney that has dedicated his law practice to defending the accused. To set up a free consultation contact the Law Office of E. Jason Leach today at (432) 552-7000.