Is DUI Roadblock Constitutional?

What is a DUI roadblock:

A DUI roadblock or checkpoint is a commonly used tactic of law enforcement officers to detect and arrest drunk drivers. The police officers would funnel the drivers to strategically placed DUI roadblocks and force to stop their vehicle while being confronted by an officer. The law enforcers would stick their head inside your vehicle to check if there’s a trace of odor of alcohol or drugs; they would also ask if you have consumed any alcohol or drugs. As you answer the questions, the officers would try to detect the odor of alcohol on your breath and otherwise would perform a DUI test routine.

These DUI roadblocks are often set up late at night, very early morning hours, on weekends, or even on Superbowl weekends; these are the times when impaired drivers tends to be the highest. Using a portable alcohol breath test, the police can test all drivers and process the cars one by one; a lack of one means a more complicated routine. If there’s an admission or on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, the driver is required to exit the vehicle to take a roadside sobriety test. The test needs the driver to demonstrate both mental and balance skills. If the law enforcer found out that the driver failed, the driver is then required to take a breathalyzer test.

Are DUI roadblocks constitutional?

An experienced DUI attorney will tell you that it is. Citing the Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz1, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), the United States Supreme Court held that the checkpoint operation did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Court’s 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Rehnquest recognized that roadblocks do constitute a “seizure” within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment. The Chief Justice reasoned that the intrusion on individual liberties must also be weighed against the need and effectiveness of the roadblock. An experienced DUI attorney would tell you that you that the interests in reducing alcohol-related fatalities outweighed the intrusion on human privacy rights and sobriety checkpoints, hence deemed constitutionally acceptable.

[Tweet “There are 11 states that were noted where their DUI roadblock violates their own state constitution, and even outlawed them.”] These states have more protection against unreasonable searches and DUI roadblocks are prohibited. Unfortunately, Nevada is not one of these states. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court stipulated certain guidelines that need to be followed by the law enforcers to make roadblocks constitutional.

The requirements for an administrative roadblock in Las Vegas

Under NRS 484B.570, these provisions are:

  • The roadblock should be strategically placed on a highway visible at least 100 yards in both directions;
  • The roadblock should have a “stop” sign at least 50 yards in both directions;
  • The roadblock should have at least one flashing light that is visible at least 100 yards in both directions;
  • The roadblock should have a “police stop” signs at least a quarter-mile at both directions; and
  • The roadblock should have a light, a flare, or lantern by the “police stop” to attract attention.

If any of these provisions are not met, Contact Las Vegas DUI Defense Attorney Ross Goodman for a legal counsel.

References:

Random Checkpoint – Wikipedia
DUI Road Block – Motorists.org