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Can the Police Just Set up Roadblocks for Sobriety Checkpoints?

     In MICHIGAN DEPT. OF STATE POLICE v. SITZ, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), the Supreme Court approved the use of sobriety checkpoints as an aid to apprehend those in violation the DUI laws. The subject checkpoint was used by Michigan. "[T]he Michigan State Police Department and its director, established a highway sobriety checkpoint program with guidelines governing checkpoint operations, site selection, and publicity. During the only operation to date, 126 vehicles passed through the checkpoint, the average delay per vehicle was 25 seconds, and two drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol". The Court determined that on these facts:

Because "checkpoints are selected pursuant to guidelines, and uniformed officers stop every vehicle [limiting discretion in who was stopped]" the checkpoint survived a challenge under the Fourth Amendment.

Note that in Delaware v. Prouse, the U.S Supreme Court "disapproved random stops made by Delaware Highway Patrol officers in an effort to apprehend unlicensed drivers and unsafe vehicles..." observing "that no empirical evidence indicated that such stops would be an effective means of promoting roadway safety and....that the random stops involved the kind of standardless and unconstrained discretion [which] is the evil the Court has discerned when in previous cases it has insisted that the discretion of the official in the field be circumscribed, at least to some extent."  37 states conduct sobriety checkpoints.13 states do not. "Some states prohibit them by state law or Constitution (or interpretation of state law or Constitution). Texas prohibits them based on its interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Missouri law prohibits funds from being spent on checkpoint programs." Maryland conducts DUI checkpoints 2, and they are considered legal under Maryland law.

     -This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 2/15/19

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1https://www.ghsa.org/state-laws/issues/sobriety%20checkpoints

2 See e.g.  https://news.maryland.gov/msp/2018/11/15/state-police-to-hold-sobriety-checkpoint-2/

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