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DUI Checkpoints

In Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), the United States Supreme Court held that a state’s use of highway sobriety checkpoints does not violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoint procedures in Florida are largely governed by two Supreme Court of Florida decisions: State v. Jones, 483 So.2d 433 (Fla.1986) and Campbell v. State, 679 So.2d 1168 (Fla.1996).

Any roadblock set up by a law enforcement agency in Florida must comply with the standards set by those decisions, as failure to comply with the requirements can result in a DUI checkpoint being declared unconstitutional.

When a person is arrested for DUI (or another related criminal offense, such as driving on a suspended license or possession of a controlled substance) at an illegal roadblock, the criminal charges can be dismissed if the roadblock procedures do not align with the requirements set forth by the Florida Supreme Court.

Lawyer for DUI Checkpoint Arrests in Fort Lauderdale, FL

If you were arrested at a drunk driving checkpoint in Broward County, it is in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel. Meltzer & Bell aggressively defends clients arrested for DUI and other crimes at roadblocks in Margate, Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, and several surrounding areas of South Florida.

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell can investigate all of the circumstances involved in the administration of your checkpoint and challenge any unlawful practices to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

Call (954) 765-6585 right now to have our lawyers provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free initial consultation.

Broward County DUI Checkpoint Information Center

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Florida DUI Checkpoint Requirements

In State v. Jones, the Second District Court of Appeal certified the following question as being one of great public importance: “[c]an a warrantless temporary roadblock which is established to apprehend persons driving while under the influence of alcohol and which stops automobiles without any articulable suspicion of illegal activity produce constitutionally permissible arrests?” The case involved a man who was arrested for DUI after failing several field sobriety tests at a DUI roadblock established by Tampa police on July 4, 1982.

The trial court denied Jones’ pretrial motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of what he contended to be an illegal seizure, and he ultimately entered a plea of no contest. The circuit court affirmed both the judgment and the sentence, but the Second District Court of Appeal rejected the circuit court’s affirmance and reversed the conviction after ruling that the roadblock violated Jones’ fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

On February 20, 1986, the Supreme Court of Florida answered the certified question in the affirmative but approved the result reached by the District Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court wrote, “[p]aramount among all other considerations, the Fourth Amendment requires that all seizures be based on either”:

  • specific evidence of an existing violation;
  • a showing that reasonable legislative or administrative inspection standards are met; or
  • a showing that officers carry out the search pursuant to a plan embodying specific neutral criteria which limit the conduct of the individual officers.

The Supreme Court wrote, “it is essential that a written set of uniform guidelines be issued before a roadblock can be utilized.” In addition, the Court stated that,  “[w]ritten guidelines should cover in detail the procedures which field officers are to follow at the roadblock,” the Court wrote. “Ideally, these guidelines should set out with reasonable specificity procedures regarding the selection of vehicles, detention techniques, duty assignments, and the disposition of vehicles.”

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Planning Requirements for Florida DUI Checkpoints

Campbell v. State, 667 So.2d 279 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995) “expressly and directly conflicted” with State v. Jones and Hartsfield v. State, 629 So.2d 1020 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993) on the issue of whether advance written guidelines are required before the police can conduct a roadblock. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed Campbell’s conviction and upheld the legality of the roadblock, but the Supreme Court of Florida rejected the district court decision after concluding that the documentation used by the police officials “patently did not comply with the State v. Jones requirement for written guidelines” and rendered Campbell’s stop fatally defective under the Fourth Amendment and article I, section 12 of the Florida Constitution.

The Supreme Court of Florida also approved the Fourth District’s decision to reverse the order denying Hartsfield’s motion to suppress and remanded the case for further proceedings in Hartsfield. The Court wrote:

The requirement of written guidelines is not merely a formality. Rather, it is the method this Court and others have chosen to ensure that the police do not act with unbridled discretion in exercising the power to stop and restrain citizens who have manifested no conduct that would otherwise justify an intrusion on a citizen’s liberty. In this country the police are not vested with the general authority to set up “routine” roadblocks at any time or place. Rather, law enforcement was placed on notice by our holding in Jones that the stopping and detaining of a citizen is a serious matter that requires particularized advance planning and direction and strict compliance thereafter.

While law enforcement agencies in different jurisdictions may each have their own set of operating procedures, such DUI checkpoint guidelines must comply with these Supreme Court rulings.

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What You Should Do at DUI Checkpoints in Broward County

If you encounter a police roadblock in Florida, the guidelines being utilized will likely not be immediately available to you and you should operate under the assumption that the law enforcement agency has taken the steps necessary to ensure the legality of the checkpoint. While the Fourth Amendment issues typically arise in DUI checkpoint cases because of debates about the lawfulness of searches and seizures, do not forget your rights guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment as well.

While you should comply with any requests from law enforcement officers for identification, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance, always remember that you have the right to remain silent. Exercise that right if you are asked any additional questions.

You should also comply with any request to step out of your vehicle, but remember that the requirement to submit to chemical tests (such as breath testing) under the state’s “implied consent” law does not apply to field sobriety tests (essentially performance tests).

You can decline to perform field sobriety tests without fear of criminal or civil penalties, but refusal to submit to chemical testing will result in an automatic driver’s license suspension and your arrest for DUI.

Another Amendment to the United States Constitution people should remember is the Sixth Amendment, which establishes the accused’s right to the assistance of counsel in all criminal prosecutions. You should seek legal representation as soon as possible if you are arrested or encounter any issues with a DUI checkpoint in South Florida.

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DUI Checkpoint Resources in Florida

Sobriety Checkpoint Laws | Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) — GHSA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission to “Provide leadership and advocacy for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices.” According to this section of the GHSA website, 37 states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands conduct sobriety checkpoints, but 13 states do not. The GHSA claims that between 15 and 20 checkpoints are conducted in Florida each month.

Chapter 17.08 of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Policy Manual — View the full text of FHP’s guidelines for the use of Comprehensive Roadside Safety Checkpoints. Find more information about actual checkpoint procedures, operational plans, and procedures relating to checkpoint location selection. Drivers License and Vehicle Inspection Checkpoints are covered in Chapter 17.07 of the manual.

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Find a DUI Checkpoint Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Were you recently arrested for drunk driving or another criminal offense at a police roadblock in South Florida? Do not delay in contacting Meltzer & Bell.

Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are experienced criminal defense lawyers in Fort Lauderdale who represent residents of and visitors to communities throughout Broward County, such as Weston, and Wilton Manors, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, Pompano Beach, Sunrise, Tamarac, and many others.

You can have our attorneys review your case and help you understand all of your legal options when you call (954) 765-6585 or fill out an online contact form to set up a free, confidential consultation.

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