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Last night the Ohio State Highway Patrol conducted a sobriety checkpoint in Lakewood at the Corner of Detroit and Northland. The checkpoint ran from 9 pm to 1 am and was coupled with officers patrolling the surrounding area.

The United States Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of DUI sobriety checkpoints as not being an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

One thing is clear: a DUI checkpoint is a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The question then becomes, is that seizure reasonable or unreasonable; if unreasonable, an officer would need a warrant putting forth probable cause ( a little difficult in the DUI checkpoint scenario), or individualized suspicion of criminal activity ( we fight everyday about what that means).

So in determining whether the seizure of a DUI checkpoint is reasonable (this dispensing with the above requirements). a balancing test involving three prongs makes up the analysis:

1) the state’s interest in preventing accidents caused by drunk drivers,

2) the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints in achieving that goal, and

3) the level of intrusion on an individual’s privacy caused by the checkpoints.

Some of the criteria that are evaluated in DUI sobriety checkpoints are whether patrol guidelines are followed in the execution of the checkpoint, i.e. whether every car is stopped, or every 5th car, as opposed to only cars of minorities being stopped, whether there is advance notice of the checkpoint,  signs in the area of the checkpoint notifying persons of the checkpoint, whether the checkpoint is is an area that has been determined to yield a high number of DUI arrests, and protocols for quickly accessing sobriety of drivers in a non-invasive manner.

I can’t imagine anyone would argue against decreasing the number of drunk and impaired drivers on our roads, but as always, it’s in the execution of these good ideas and plans that often causes constitutional problems.

And now, we are seeing so many more OVI’s in the context of impaired as a result of drugs, prescription or otherwise, so stay tuned for how officers are being taught to evaluate this impairment, whether this training means anything at all, and how this could impact DUI checkpoints.