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The Law Offices of Clayton R. Dickinson

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DUI Checkpoints

DUI Checkpoints – A Violation of Your Constitutional Rights?

Currently, Washington is one of only about 12 states that do not have DUI checkpoints. Up until 1988, some areas of Washington did utilize checkpoints until ruled unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court.

Recently, however, lawmakers are making a move toward re-establishing these checkpoints, pointing toward an increase in DUI-related accidents. On the heels of even more stringent DUI laws that went into effect last year, bringing back DUI checkpoints is a controversial issue with law-abiding citizens and Washington DUI defense attorneys alike.

DUI roadblocks entail pulling over drivers to check them for potential DUI infractions without cause. The reasoning behind these checkpoints is to deter people from drinking and driving. However, in essence, they subject law-abiding people to searches and questioning for no reason.

In the 1988 case City of Seattle v. Mesiani, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that DUI checkpoints fell under the search and seizure part of the state constitution, which requires a warrant. When asked to prove that checkpoints were an exception to the warrant rule, the city of Seattle could not. Additionally, the courts also found DUI checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause.

With lawmakers making a push to bring back DUI checkpoints, there is cause for concern.

  • Police don't typically witness impaired driving at a checkpoint, as they do when they are out on patrol
  • Drivers can see a DUI checkpoint ahead and decide to avoid it
  • Setting up and manning checkpoints prevents police from actually patrolling the highways for actual drunk drivers
  • Simply smelling of alcohol is not against the law, and can end up with an innocent person under arrest

These are just a few issues DUI defense attorneys anticipate if checkpoints return to Washington.

Above all in your life, you must protect your constitutional rights. If charged with a DUI, contact a Tacoma DUI defense lawyer immediately.