Car Seizures and Sobriety Checkpoints

February 29, 2012


Sobriety checkpoints, also known as sobriety roadblocks, have become commonplace in recent years as special interest groups and the general public have lobbied for more intense measures to curb drunk driving in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and across the U.S. Even so, there is still a great deal of legal opposition to sobriety checkpoints – and not just because data shows they aren’t effective as a drunk driving deterrent. The Fourth Amendment, which restricts searches and seizures, would seem to bar law enforcement officials from conducting roadblocks, but the U.S. Supreme Court has found DUI checkpoints to be constitutionally permissible. Plus, procedure at sobriety roadblocks must be followed exactly, leading to numerous grounds upon which to challenge a DUI charge that results from a checkpoint stop.

Overall, the effectiveness and legality of Massachusetts and New Hampshire sobriety roadblocks remains a point of contention across legal, law enforcement, and public lines. The question remains, however, why DUI roadblocks are still being utilized as a means of catching and deterring drunk drivers when it’s been proven in studies undertaken around the country that checkpoints do neither.

One theory posits that while sobriety checkpoints are only slightly useful for ensuring that drivers are sober, they’re particularly useful for identifying drivers who are behind the wheel without a valid license. Impounds at checkpoints can generate revenue in the form of towing fees and police fines, plus police officers employed at DUI roadblocks are often working overtime. And in some cases, the number of car seizures for license and registration violations even far exceeds the number of drunk drivers removed from the road.

In fact, once a police officer has a driver’s information in hand, he or she can see whether the driver has any outstanding warrants and make an arrest. Officials may also have cause, at that point, to search for contraband materials within the vehicle. One major objection to DUI roadblocks in New Hampshire and Massachusetts is that their scope has expanded beyond driving while under the influence – leading to arrests, the aforementioned car seizures, and charges that go beyond drinking and driving.

If you have been charged with a DUI infraction as the result of a sobriety roadblock, it is important that you work with an attorney who understands the complex legal issues surrounding this practice. Challenging a DUI checkpoint arrest can involve looking at the unconstitutional nature of the practice, the training of the officers involved, probable cause, the effectiveness of roadblocks, and other factors. It is typical in a roadblock DUI case that there are more grounds to challenge a stop, seizure and arrest, even more so than in other DUI cases.

DUI attorney Michael Bowser has years of experience successfully defending those accused of drunk driving in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and challenging the validity and constitutionality of Police Sobriety Checkpoint Roadblocks. Call Attorney Michael Bowser today at 1-888-5BOWSER to discuss DUI laws and your individual circumstances.

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