Under Illinois law, sobriety checkpoints are a legal method used by police to find inebriated drivers and keep the state’s roadways safer. Sobriety checkpoints are police traffic stops that are not related to any individual suspicion of DUI. At temporary, random locations, police briefly detain and interview drivers. Those acting suspiciously are subjected to sobriety tests and, if they are intoxicated, charged with DUI.
Search and Seizure
Due to the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizures by the government, police generally need a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity to stop drivers. A reasonable suspicion does not mean an absolute certainty, but rather a justifiable suspicion that unlawful activity is occurring or is imminent.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the potential harm from allowing drunk drivers on the road outweighs the degree of intrusion caused by sobriety checkpoints, making them an exception to the general rule. Because dealing with a DUI checkpoint is a minor inconvenience, the potential benefit of saving lives outweighs the intrusion, and in Illinois, sobriety checkpoints are legal.
Police are required to make their presence known before a driver approaches a checkpoint, which gives drivers time to make U-turns and avoid being stopped. If a driver turns away from a roadblock before reaching the checkpoint, without violating any traffic laws, there is no reasonable suspicion for the police to stop the driver. However, police may stop a driver whose behavior is suspicious or who comes within the area of the checkpoint before attempting to turn around.
Sobriety checkpoints are an exception to search and seizure protections. Therefore, they are subject to strict protocols, including:
- Random stops: police may not choose which individual cars to pull over, but must adhere to a sequence, such as stopping every fifth car, every other car, etc.;
- Field sobriety tests may only be used when there is a reasonable suspicion of intoxication, based on indications such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, or uncoordinated movements;
- Advance notice of the location of any DUI checkpoint must be given to the public;
- Checkpoints must have a minimal effect on traffic;
- Checkpoints may not be used to search for evidence of other crimes, such as by searching the driver’s car, unless police have a warrant; and
- Police must submit prospective plans for a checkpoint to a magistrate to ensure compliance with all the standards.
If police violate any of these requirements, any evidence obtained at the sobriety checkpoint may be invalidated in court.
DUI charges can have very serious consequences, so it is important to have an experienced legal team to defend your rights. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC at 630-232-1780 to schedule a confidential consultation.