Drunk Driving: Observing Legal Background of Sobriety Checkpoints in US

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Sobriety checkpoints are checkpoints that are randomly set up on the roadway and there is no fixed location when it comes setting them up. They happen randomly but more so on certain days of the year where there are high chances of DUI incidents such as Patrick’s Day, New Year’s, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, etc. Although they have no fixed location, they tend to set up at locations that have history of roadway incidents. During the checking process, they have a predetermined pattern of checking cars and they do have rules they follow: brief stops with few questions and no prolong search, stops may not necessarily require a physical search unless there’s reasonable suspicion, there must be sufficient warning of the stop (in media, news, or road sign), drives have the right to lawfully avoid the stop, placements of checkpoints must be based on experience/history of DUI incidents at these locations, and decisions to check which vehicle to stop must be predetermined.

Sobriety checkpoints were ratified and enforced during the 1990s as a result of Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz. The Court justified that enforcement of sobriety checkpoints met the 4th Amendment standard of “reasonable search and seizure”. The purpose of sobriety checkpoint, asserted at the time, was reducing drunk driving in the states and promoting road/highway safety. Over time, these assertions and motive behind this law was put into debate multiple times and have been unconstitutional – violating citizens’ individual rights or freedoms. It’s important to remember that the 4th Amendment protects citizens from “unreasonable” searches and seizures and for the search & seizure to proceed, the law enforcement must have a warrant issued by a gov’t official authorizing the search. This is a constitutional right that must not be violated as part of the due process – from the 5th amendment, it acts as a safeguard for the citizens, that their individual freedoms should not be denied and violated. Citizens are free from arbitrary and unnecessary governmental intrusion into their private space and personal matters.

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However, this is not the case here when it comes sobriety checkpoints especially when it comes detaining a driver to perform extensive DUI testing, which would require reasonable suspicion. In the case of City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 2000, the case was ruled unconstitutional because Edmond posed no threat to public safety. The police had K-9s to sniff out Edmond for narcotics (even though Edmond had NO drugs on him and his vehicle) and this “unreasonable” search forced Edmond to sue the city violation of his rights. The court then ruled it unconstitutional as they have stated that their sole purpose of these checkpoints is to promote road safety, not detect evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Although unconstitutional, was it for the interests of the community? When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-to-3 at Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz case, it was deemed constitutional and that it met public interests in arresting drunk drivers and deter them from drunk driving for the sake of public safety. Community interests dealt with public safety and system efficiency – concerned with preserving the health and security of individuals within the community and the competence of the operation in the criminal justice process. By keeping the community in mind, this allowed them to enforce the law and in turn, making the community feel safe as it would deter individuals driving while intoxicated and possibly could harm someone.

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Drunk Driving: Observing Legal Background of Sobriety Checkpoints in US. (2023, February 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/drunk-driving-observing-legal-background-of-sobriety-checkpoints-in-us/
“Drunk Driving: Observing Legal Background of Sobriety Checkpoints in US.” Edubirdie, 01 Feb. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/drunk-driving-observing-legal-background-of-sobriety-checkpoints-in-us/
Drunk Driving: Observing Legal Background of Sobriety Checkpoints in US. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/drunk-driving-observing-legal-background-of-sobriety-checkpoints-in-us/> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
Drunk Driving: Observing Legal Background of Sobriety Checkpoints in US [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Feb 01 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/drunk-driving-observing-legal-background-of-sobriety-checkpoints-in-us/
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