Sunday, August 18, 2013

A History of Court Decisions on the Constitutionality of DUI Checkpoints

In 1987, the California Supreme Court addressed the question of whether DWI sobriety checkpoints were permissible under federal and state constitutions. (Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Ca1.3d 1321, 1325.) "Federal constitutional principles require a showing of either the officer's reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred or is occurring or, as an alternative; that the seizure is 'carried out pursuant to a plan embodying explicit, neutral limitations on the conduct of individual officers.' (Brown v. Texas (1979) 443 U.S. 47, 51, citing Delaware v. Prouse (1979) 440 U.S. 648, 663 and United States v. Martinez-Fuerte (1976) 428 U.S. 543,558-562.) As part of its analysis, the California Supreme Court in Ingersoll applied the federal test that was enunciated in Brown v. Texas, supra, 443 U.S. 47. 51 for determining whether the detention of the driver was reasonable.  The Brown test was a balancing test weighing the gravity of the governmental interest or public concern served and the degree to which the program advances that concern against the intrusiveness of the interference with individual liberty. 

The California Supreme Court "determined that (1) '[d]eterring drunk driving and identifying and removing drunk drivers from the roadways undeniably serves a highly important governmental interest,' and (2) sobriety checkpoints advance this interest. (Ingersoll. supra, 43 Cal.3d atpp. 1338-1341.) In examining the third prong of the Brown balancing test, which [it] rephrased as 'the intrusiveness on inclividua1liberties engendered by the sobriety checkpoints: [it] identified eight 'factors important in assessing intrusiveness,' noting that such factors 'provide functional guidelines for minimizing the intrusiveness of the DUI checkpoint stop." (People v. Banks (1993) 6 Cal. 4th 926,936.) It found these eight factors were important in assessing intrusiveness, noting that these eight factors "provide functional guidelines for minimizing the intrusiveness of the sobriety checkpoint stop."  These eight factors are:

(1) Whether the decision to establish a sobriety checkpoint, the selection of the site, and the procedures for the operation of the checkpoint are made and established by supervisory law enforcement personnel;
(2) Whether drivers are stopped according to a neutral formula, such as every third, fifth or tenth driver;
(3) Whether adequate safety precautions are taken, such as proper lighting, warning sign,and signals, and whether clearly identifiable official vehicles and personnel are used;
(4) Whether the location of the checkpoint was determined by a policymaking official, and was reasonable, i.e., on a road having a high incidence of alcohol-related accidents or arrests;
(5) Whether the time the checkpoint was conducted and its duration reflect "good judgment" on the part of law enforcement officials;
(6) Whether the checkpoint exhibits sufficient indicia of its official nature (to reassure motorists of the authorized nature of the stop);
(7) Whether the average length and nature of the detention is minimized;and
(8) Whether the checkpoint is preceded by publicity.

Three years after Ingersoll, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Michigan State Police Dept. v. Sitz (1990) 496 U.S. 444. In Sitz, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether sobriety checkpoints violated the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.  It found that the balancing test used in Brown v. Texas and United States v. Martinez-Fuerte (1976) 428 U.S. 543 [approved fixed immigration checkpoints to investigate the transport of illegal aliens] was the appropriate test. In applying the balancing test, the court held that a state's interest in preventing drunken driving, the extent to which this system can reasonably be said to advance that interest, and the degree of intrusion upon individual motorists who are briefly stopped, weighed in favor of a state sobriety checkpoint and was consistent with the Fourth Amendment. Three years after Sitz, the California Supreme Court decided People v. Banks (1993) 6 Ca1.4th 926.)  In Banks, the court considered whether advance publicity, one of the eight Ingersoll factors, was a constitutional prerequisite for a sobriety checkpoint. The Justices held that in light of Sitz and other authority, a DUI checkpoint that lacked advance publicity but otherwise conformed to the Ingersoll guidelines was not a unreasonable seizure.

The evolution of the Drunk Driver checkpoint is nearly 40 years in the making.  Most Attorneys understand that a challenge on fourth amendment grounds will be met with much opposition.  But, checkpoints can be fought if the person understands the cases and the requirements