Sobriety Checkpoints in Louisiana – Are They Legal?

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Are sobriety checkpoints legal? In short, yes they are. It all stems back to the 4th Amendment under the Constitution of the United States of America. In this, it says that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”.

According to justia.com, “in order to be reasonable, a seizure must be the result of probable cause, which means that police must have a good reason to stop an individual or vehicle”. It has been argued that sobriety checkpoints stop people without probably cause, since they’re randomized checks. To gauge whether a seizure is reasonable, a balancing test must be implemented. All in all, it’s in the public’s best interest that drunk driving be prevented on the road, for overall safety.

So what are sobriety checkpoints exactly?  They are, as stated by justia.com, “temporary roadblocks that law enforcement officers use to screen motorists for drunk driving-related offenses”. Only twelve states don’t use sobriety checkpoints: Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Montana is a little bit different, to where it permits ‘safety spot-checks’, as opposed to sobriety checkpoints. That being said, Louisiana is one of the 38 states that use sobriety checkpoints.

Not only does a checkpoint have to be reasonable in its execution, but also in its creation, to pass legal scrutiny. From here, a state authority has to call for this checkpoint and then provide a sound logical reason why a checkpoint should be implemented at that specified location. Assuming this logical explanation is approved, the courts explore their own “checklist” for executing this checkpoint.

Some requirements on the checklist that must be met for the checkpoint to be executed are:

  • The location must be selected and the proper procedures must be used
  • Drivers must be selected in the most unbiased way possible. In other words, a driver cannot just be stopped at a checkpoint. The driver must be doing things such as speeding, swerving the car, appearing to have slurred speech, seeming drunk, and/or have the smell of alcohol on his or her breath.
  • Sufficient safety measures and precautions must be implemented, such as proper lighting, warning signs, and easily identifiable police vehicles. The reason for this, as well as not becoming a speed trap, is to let drivers know that this is an official and legitimate checkpoint.
  • Time limitations so that it’s not a never-ending checkpoint.

The law enforcement officer implementing this checkpoint must follow these rules 100%. Going against these rules would be violating the authority of the checkpoint and would be compromising the law enforcement officer’s true intentions for executing this checkpoint. Let’s say the law enforcement officer makes the determination that the driver passing through is under the influence: that officer can arrest the driver and have his or her vehicle impounded.

Here at Southern Oaks, it’s all about you, the client. Although avoiding the situation altogether is always the best solution, we understand that when you need our expertise, we can provide it efficiently and effectively. License suspension, fines and jail time are real possibilities. You don’t want to start this process alone and uneducated. At Southern Oaks, we comb through the details of every case to ensure the best possible outcome for our clients. Contact us today!