Sobriety checkpoints, commonly referred to as DUI checkpoints, are conducted at a predetermined location at which law enforcement officers will stop vehicles to check whether the driver is impaired. Officers typically decide in advance whether they will stop every vehicle or stop vehicles in a certain pattern, such as every third vehicle. DUI checkpoints were first introduced back in the 1930s in Scandinavia. By the 1980s, they were commonplace across America. While the Supreme Court ruled sobriety checkpoints constitutional in 1990, they continue to be a source of much controversy. Our Atlanta DUI lawyers discuss the legality of DUI checkpoints and answer the common question as to whether you must comply.
Legality of DUI Checkpoints
DUI checkpoints have been challenged as unconstitutional on a federal and state level. In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the issue and ruled 6-3 that DUI checkpoints are indeed constitutional. In weighing the issue, the high court considered the human life cost of drunk driving and weighed it against the intrusion to individuals of complying with the checkpoint. The court found that the sobriety checkpoint poses just a slight intrusion. Accordingly, the court held that the balance of the state’s interest in preventing drunk driving, when contrasted with the degree of intrusion and the effectiveness of the program, weighed in favor of the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints.
That said, several state courts have found otherwise. Currently, just 38 states allow warrantless DUI checkpoints. Georgia is one such state. Not just any checkpoint will be deemed constitutional, however. Georgia case law has defined numerous criteria that must be met for the checkpoint to be legal. First, the decision as to when and where a checkpoint will be conducted must be made by a law enforcement supervisor. The checkpoint must have a legitimate purpose and must be adequately marked. The delay must be minimal and all vehicles must be initially stopped.
Rolling Down Your Window
Several articles have swirled around in recent years about whether or not drivers are required to roll down their window when stopped at a DUI checkpoint. Some attorneys and others suggest placing a plastic bag on the window with your registration and driver’s license inside along with a flyer that says you are remaining silent and do not consent to a search. Leaving your window up, while still providing your information, may meet legal requirements, though it has yet to be definitively ruled on in court. Drivers should consider whether doing so may raise suspicions. Georgia drivers should be aware that if asked to sign a citation, they will need to roll down the window to do so or may face penalties. Contact our Georgia DUI defense lawyers for individualized local advice as to how to handle a DUI checkpoint.