Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Michigan?

Your Fourth Amendment right – the right to free from unlawful searches and seizures – is one of the most important rights you have, especially in terms of criminal law. Under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement officers must have a valid justification for stopping you, searching you, and arresting you or confiscating your property. Although the Fourth Amendment is what protects you from law enforcement officers simply entering your home or stopping your car whenever they please, its meaning and merit have been tested in debated over DUI checkpoints.

Also called sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks, DUI checkpoints involve law enforcement officers who stop passing motorists on a roadway in order to preliminarily investigate whether they may be driving under the influence (DUI). DUI checkpoints are used in many states throughout the U.S. as a means to deter drunk driving, and are especially common during holidays, nights, and weekends in locations where officers know motorists may be drinking and driving.

Michigan & Sobriety Checkpoints

To put it simply: DUI checkpoints are not legal in Michigan. In fact, Michigan is one of 10 states that have ruled against sobriety checkpoints, saying that they violate their own state constitutions. This is despite the fact that a single case from Michigan led to the Supreme Court ruling that generally allows sobriety checkpoints in the U.S, and which still maintains the standard by which they are conducted in states that consider them legal.

Here are a few important details about the case:

  • In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of sobriety roadblocks in a 6-3 decision in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz. The decision overturned a previous ruling form the Michigan Supreme Court that sobriety roadblocks violated the Fourth Amendment.
  • In its ruling, the U.S Supreme Court noted “properly conducted” roadblocks were constitutional, as the interest in protecting public safety against drunk drivers outweighed the limited intrusion into privacy created by a checkpoint.
  • Despite the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, Michigan maintained that DUI checkpoints were illegal.

Even though DUI checkpoints are not used in Michigan, law enforcement throughout the state still conduct vehicle stops, investigations, and arrests involving suspected DUIs. Because the same concepts behind the Fourth Amendment apply to these stops and investigations, officers accomplish their task by looking for signs of “reasonable suspicion” such as swerving or traffic violations to stop a potential suspect, and must have “probable cause” to believe the person they stopped is committing a crime in order to further investigate and arrest them. This can include the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, and other indicators of impairment. Even if you are arrested, the Fourth Amendment can still play an important factor in your defense.

White Law PLLC: Protecting Your Rights

At White Law PLLC, our Okemos criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience representing clients charged with OWI / DUI. As part of our work, we look closely into the conduct of law enforcement to ensure they did not violate our clients’ rights. Should officers fail to have reasonable suspicion when pulling over a suspect or lack probable cause when conducting further investigations (such as obtaining a breath or blood sample), it may constitute an unlawful search and seizure. This would allow our team to petition for the inadmissibility of evidence obtained through those unlawful searches and seizures, which can result in case dismissals or other positive outcomes.

If you or someone you have has been charged with an OWI / DUI, the time to act is now. Contact White Law PLLC for a free consultation.