Are DUI Checkpoints Constitutional?
A question I am often asked by clients, friends, etc, is how do police get away with stopping people at DUI checkpoints?
This is a very valid question because the normal rule is that in order for a traffic stop to be considered constitutional, law enforcement must have “reasonable suspicion” to pull a driver over. Once the stop is made, “probable cause” is required in order for the officer to begin a DUI investigation.
This leads to the question, if an officer must have "reasonable suspicion" to stop a car, and "probable cause" to investigate for a DUI, how do law enforcement agencies justify random sobriety checkpoints?
In Kansas DUI checkpoints are supported by both Federal and State Law:
The U.S. Supreme Court held, in Michigan v. Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, (1990), that while random checkpoints violate the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure, the governmental interest in preventing drunk driving outweighs the minor infringement.
State of Kansas
State v. Deskins, (1983), The Deskins court laid out several factors to be considered in determining the validity of a checklane:
"Numerous conditions and factors must be considered in determining whether a DUI
roadblock meets the balancing test in favor of the State. Among the factors which
should be considered are: (1) The degree of discretion, if any, left to the officer in the
field; (2) the location designated for the roadblock; (3) the time and duration of the
roadblock; (4) standards set by superior officers; (5) advance notice to the public at large;
(6) advance warning to the individual approaching motorist; (7) maintenance of safety
conditions; (8) degree of fear or anxiety generated by the mode of operation; (9) average
length of time each motorist is detained; (10) physical factors surrounding the location,
type and method of operation; (11) the availability of less intrusive methods for
combating the problem; (12) the degree of effectiveness of the procedure; and (13) any
other relevant circumstances which might bear upon the test. Not all of the factors need to
be favorable to the State but all which are applicable to a given roadblock should be
Other helpful cases.
Davis v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, (1992), for example, makes clear that no specific statutory grant of authority is required to legitimize a checklane operation (for DUI sobriety checks).
State v. Barker, (1993), there was no advance warning to the public at large of the scheduled checklane. And while the court noted it would be a desirable requirement, its absence does not by itself invalidate the checklane.
The answer to the question of are these DUI checklanes constitutional and can the police justify them is YES. Yes, as of this time, DUI checklanes are deemed to be constitutional in the State of Kansas, and as long as the checkpoint isn't administered completely out of whack it will be upheld as valid.
If you or someone you know is being charged with a DUI or other criminal charges in the state of Kansas, contact our office in Overland Park, KS, for a free case evaluation with an experienced DUI defense attorney.