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
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.