Was my stop at a DUI checkpoint in Florida legal?
It is summer in Florida, and you may have likely heard on the news or in papers that police in your area are setting up DUI checkpoints especially during days and times when people are likely to be drinking alcohol.
While we can all agree that drunk driving should be avoided, no one should be wrongfully arrested for driving under the influence when, in fact, they were not intoxicated. Given that the police might stop a perfectly sober driver at a DUI checkpoints, you might wonder whether DUI checkpoints are legal.
DUI checkpoints under federal law
DUI Checkpoints were made legal by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990 in the case Michigan v. Sitz. The Court ruled DUI checkpoints in general did not violate a motorist’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, because the stop at a checkpoint was brief and there was a greater public interest in decreasing the number of intoxicated motorists on the road.
However, the Court left it up to the states to determine if DUI checkpoints should be legal under the states’ laws and constitutions. Some states determined DUI checkpoints violated their state constitution or statutes, but Florida is not one of these states.
DUI checkpoints under Florida law
Florida law permits DUI checkpoints. However, there are some limits. DUI checkpoint stops are meant to be brief and random, and they must be publicized before the fact. At a DUI checkpoint stop, police can generally only perform a search or ask the motorist to perform a field sobriety test or breath test if there is reasonable suspicion to believe the motorist is intoxicated.
You might be randomly stopped at a DUI checkpoint, and the police might ask you a brief question or two. You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to submit to any tests, although there might be consequences for refusal. Still, you will want to weigh the outcomes of refusing to speak or submit to tests and questions against your Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures if you are facing DUI charges.