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Are sobriety checkpoints in Virginia unconstitutional?

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As you approach a sobriety checkpoint, you might be wondering if this inconvenient roadblock is even legal. After all, doesn't the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibit searches without probable cause? And isn't that precisely what a sobriety checkpoint is?

The Legal History of Sobriety Checkpoints

Legal precedent has determined that sobriety checkpoints are lawful. While the Fourth Amendment does provide motorists some protection, such as the right to refuse permission to police to search your vehicle without probable cause, Fourth Amendment does not extend to sobriety checkpoints.

In 1986, Michigan State Police announced that they would implement what would become the first sobriety checkpoints in the country. Michigan resident Rick Sitz filed suit against the police before the policy even went into effect.

The court that initially heard the case agreed with Sitz that such roadblocks were not constitutional. This verdict was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1990, the high court ruled 6-3 that sobriety checkpoints did not violate the Fourth Amendment. In its ruling, the Supreme Court stated that the intrusion of freedom on motorists at sobriety checkpoints was slight, and the benefits of keeping drunk drivers off the road made the stops appropriate and lawful.

What This Means to You

The bottom line is this: while not impossible, the chances of successfully arguing in court that Virginia sobriety checkpoints are unconstitutional are very slim. However, you must always keep in mind that that you are not automatically guilty if you are charged with driving under the influence at a sobriety checkpoint. An experienced and knowledgeable Virginia DUI lawyer may be able to obtain a not guilty verdict (or have the DUI charges withdrawn entirely) depending on the individual circumstances of your case.

For more information on sobriety checkpoints, visit our library. 

Virginia DUI attorney Bob Battle aggressively defends criminal defendants who have been charged after being stopped at a Virginia sobriety checkpoint. For proven legal help with your Virginia DUI case, contact Bob Battle to schedule your legal consultation today - 804-673-5600.

Bob Battle
100% of my practice is devoted to serious traffic defense and criminal litigation in state and federal courts
1 Comments:
"We should never drink and drive, but I still like to know where checkpoints will be in Orange County, San Diego, and LA. I may use calcheckpoint (www.twitter.com/calcheckpoint) to find out where they are."
Posted by calcheckpoint on April 2, 2010 at 04:24 PM

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