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Colorado DUI checkpoints: some background information

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2021 | DUI/DWAI

There’s no question that a Colorado state trooper or police officer can order your vehicle to the side of the road if you are weaving precipitously across lanes, right? Ditto that if you’re speeding, dangerously tailgating or driving in some other erratic fashion.

A law enforcer spotting any of those behaviors might justify a stop on grounds of probable cause to intervene. That is, he or she can posit a reasonable basis for effecting a stop. Any of those above-cited behind-the-wheel lapses might plausibly suggest that a motorist is intoxicated, for instance.

What if a driver is as sober as sober can be, though? What if his or her driving is absolutely competent, with no subpar performance issues to even remotely suggest a lawful reason for police intervention?

Wouldn’t a roadside stop and detention – for any length at all and for even the most limited of inspections – be legally objectionable in such a case?

Not always.

A search/seizure exception carved out for DUI roadblocks

An in-depth overview of sobriety checkpoints notes the time-honored “reasonable” imperative under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment that generally guides police stops and subsequent searches and seizures.

And it also underscores an exception for such actions when they are carried out pursuant to a formally administered DUI roadblock. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that checkpoints do not violate motorists’ constitutional rights. In a balancing of drivers’ interests and public safety, some minor inconvenience is allowed in order to keep drunk drivers off the road.

As the aforementioned overview stresses, though, SCOTUS endorsement of checkpoints “doesn’t mean every detention at such a checkpoint is lawful.”

A roadblock must come with advance notice to the public. There must be some logical process for stopping vehicles (e.g., every fourth car). A senior and uniformed police presence must on the scene. Detentions absent suspicion of drunk driving cannot be inordinately intrusive or lengthy.

Legality of checkpoints across the country

Not every American state concedes the legality of checkpoints.

Colorado does, though, joining a clear majority of states that routinely uphold roadblocks in court cases. The state deems checkpoints lawful under both the federal and Colorado Constitutions and conducts them periodically in locales spanning the state.

Questions or concerns regarding DUI checkpoints or any other matter relevant to a DUI arrest can be directed to a proven Colorado criminal defense legal team.