DUI/DWI checkpoints (also called sobriety checkpoints, mobile checkpoints, or roadblocks) are a controversial police practice intended to deter drunk drivers. Police typically set up a roadblock in which every driver or randomly selected motorists are stopped to screen for intoxicated drivers. Some states have passed laws against the practice, while other courts have found the checkpoints violate their state constitutions. Other states simply don’t conduct them. In Missouri, however, sobriety checkpoints are legal and regularly used as a DWI deterrent.
The Constitutionality of Sobriety Checkpoints
In general, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires police to have a reasonable articulable suspicion a crime in being committed before making a traffic stop, meaning an officer should not pull you over “for no reason.” However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the state interest in deterring drunk drivers is important enough to overrule the degree of intrusion placed on the individual at a DUI checkpoint. Therefore, random checkpoints are not considered an unconstitutional search and seizure in the 40 states where DUI checkpoints are not outlawed.
To be a legal roadblock, the resulting traffic stop must be conducted appropriately. Keep in mind that police officers are allowed to lie while conducting an investigation. If you are detained or arrested, do not be intimidated into a confession or plea deal before speaking to an experienced attorney.
What to Do If Stopped at a DUI/DWI Checkpoint
If you are stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in Missouri, it is important to know how to act and, more importantly, know your rights. Remain calm and polite, but speak as little as possible. Do not answer the “Have you been drinking tonight?” question, unless you can truthfully say no. Even the slightest admission of consuming alcohol will only be used against you.
Keep in mind that police cannot search your vehicle at a DUI checkpoint, unless they have probably cause or you give them permission to do so. You are under no obligation to submit to any sobriety field tests. However, refusing a breath or urine test for blood alcohol content, in Missouri, results in an automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license.
KCPD Transitions to Saturation Patrols
Last year, Kansas City Police Department and law enforcement agencies throughout Missouri lost $19 million in federal funds to conduct DUI checkpoints. Although police departments can still set up DUI checkpoints, the state will no longer allocate additional funding for them. KCPD and other police departments are instead focusing on saturation patrols, who watch for suspicious driving behavior rather than stopping every driver. However, a spokesperson for KCPD says they will continue to conduct periodic DUI checkpoints, even without the funding.
Need Legal Help? Contact a Kansas City DWI Attorney.
A DWI charge is a serious offense, but it doesn’t need to ruin your life. If you were arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced DWI defense attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm will fight to get the best possible outcome in your case. Contact our office in Kansas City, Missouri to schedule a consultation.