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Are drunk-driving checkpoints legal in Florida?

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Drunk Driving Charges |

There are many ways for police officers in Florida to enforce driving under the influence (DUI) statutes. Frequently, police officers engage in targeted traffic stops. They monitor the behavior of an individual driver and determine that they could very well be under the influence.

They then stop that driver to ask them a few questions. A suspicious police officer might have a driver exit the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests and then request chemical testing. A failed chemical test might lead to someone’s arrest and prosecution for DUI charges.

Sometimes, police officers arrest people at the scene of a traffic collision. Other times, they don’t engage in targeted enforcement at all but instead stop dozens of vehicles per hour as part of a DUI checkpoint or sobriety roadblock.

The state permits checkpoints

Many people have questions about the constitutionality of screening hundreds of people in a small amount of time. However, this exact issue has gone before The Supreme Court of the United States of America, with the justices affirming that such checkpoints do not violate the Constitution of the United States. Most states, including Florida, allow checkpoints due to that ruling.

Factors including how driving is a privilege and how the initial stop should only involve brief screening make checkpoints potentially legal when properly conducted by Florida law enforcement departments. Typically, there is paperwork required to lawfully implement a checkpoint. Officers must also do their best to minimize the inconvenience caused to members of the general public while screening drivers at a checkpoint. Only those who may appear to be under the influence should face enhanced screening practices such as field sobriety testing.

The downsides of sobriety checkpoints include how confirmation bias affects law enforcement professionals conducting checkpoints. They may interpret evidence in a way that implies someone has violated the law simply because that is their focus or goal. Individuals with reasonable explanations for their conduct at the wheel or performance on a field sobriety test and prosecution because officers expect to find people under the influence of alcohol.

Those accused of a DUI offense related to a checkpoint usually can’t challenge the legality of the checkpoint itself unless the police department administering the checkpoint made some kind of error. However, many people can question test results or develop another strategy for fighting the DUI charges that may follow a stop at a DUI checkpoint. As such, learning more about Florida’s law enforcement rules may benefit those hoping to avoid a conviction after a recent DUI arrest.