Are DUI Roadblocks Legal in Georgia?
If you are out driving during a busy weekend or holiday, you may have found yourself stopped by the police at a DUI checkpoint. The purpose of these temporary roadblocks is to stop and briefly question drivers to see if there is any proof they are impaired and possibly operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If the officer conducting the checkpoint suspects something is amiss, they may ask the driver to perform a field sobriety test or take a Breathalyzer.
You may be wondering, “Are DUI roadblocks legal?” What about the Fourth Amendment right to be free from “unreasonable” searches and seizures? Does that not apply to DUI checkpoints?
The 5 Rules Police Must Follow When Establishing Checkpoints
The short answer is that DUI roadblocks are constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that such roadblocks are constitutional because the government has a valid interest in preventing drunk driving. So long as the actual intrusion on the rights of drivers is kept to a minimum, there is no Fourth Amendment violation.
At the state level, the Georgia Supreme Court has set out five rules for establishing a constitutional DUI roadblock:
- The decision to implement the roadblock was made by supervisory personnel rather than by officers in the field.
- All vehicles are stopped as opposed to random vehicle stops.
- The delay to motorists is minimal.
- The roadblock is well identified as a police checkpoint.
- A driver may only be subject to requests for additional tests if the screening officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion of drunk or impaired driving.
Based on these rules, here are a few hypothetical scenarios where a DUI checkpoints is illegal.
- A patrol officer decides on his own initiative to set up a roadblock and stop all cars passing by. This is illegal because the decision to create the roadblock did not come from a supervisor.
- Local police decide to set up a roadblock and pull over every third car. This is illegal because a valid checkpoint must stop every car or none at all.
- The police decide to “ambush” motorists by setting up a “secret” checkpoint. This is illegal because a checkpoint must be well identified to motorists before they approach it.
- At a DUI roadblock, officers ask every driver to take a Breathalyzer. This is illegal because an officer must first form a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a driver is drunk before requesting additional testing.
Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today
Even though DUI roadblocks are legal in Georgia under the rules discussed above, you still have certain constitutional rights that the police must respect. You have the right to remain silent, i.e., to not answer any questions beyond providing your license, registration, and proof of insurance. You have the right to decline any field sobriety tests. And if you are arrested at the checkpoint, you have the right to speak with an experienced Johns Creek DUI lawyer. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.