DUI roadblocks, or sobriety checkpoints, are being used all over the country. The increase in roadblocks throughout the states no doubt follows the United States Supreme Court ruling, in a Michigan State Police vs. Sitz case, which decided that DUI roadblocks were constitutional. However, as with many DUI-related issues, how legal a roadblock is depends on what your state lawmakers or constitution decide. Out of this variation by state have risen some key factors to consider in a court ruling about a roadblock, in any state. One of those factors is time; or the exact times, and how long a roadblock is operated, to be specific.
Why does time matter? A roadblock is a roadblock, right? Not exactly. In short, the timing plays a part because it may help justify any given roadblock’s existence. For example, a roadblock screening for drunk drivers that is run from 1pm – 4pm in the afternoon is probably not the ideal setup to actually catch drunk drivers. A better time, perhaps, would be during the time of day people actually drink – late at night.
Roadblock Balancing Test
So, is that it then? Set up a roadblock late at night and kazaam, its legal? Timing is just a small part of a bigger puzzle. An important small part. The Supreme Court in the Sitz case adopted a system of balances to rule on the constitutionality of the roadblock, a system that most state courts will at least refer to. It balances three things: the public concern, the public interest, and how much intrusion on your rights there is.
First, we are looking at the public concern for DUI-related accidents. Second, how much a roadblock would serve that public interest. Third, how much the roadblock invades your 4th amendment rights. With the times and length of time roadblocks are operated, there is an opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of a roadblock. This weighs heavily in the second consideration, serving the public interest. So timing is an issue that a lawyer can use to back up the roadblock, or an opposing lawyer might use to point out the ineffectiveness of a roadblock.
Traffic Flow and Timing
Another factor in timing would be traffic flow. How many cars are passing through this roadblock? Here the judges are looking for a safe situation, where the police aren’t compromising everyone’s safety to run this thing. They’re also looking for a high enough traffic flow to actually give the officers a real chance for catching some drunk drivers. Another factor could be when places which sell beer, liquor and wine nearby the roadblock close – when the drunk people go home.
Remember, timing and the other major aspects discussed on this website affect a balance of interests, a big scale that altogether could tip in favor of the roadblock’s legitimacy or more in favor of your rights being preserved. Timing would influence the effectiveness of a roadblock, and therefore the advancement of the public interest.