DUI checkpoints catch hundreds if not thousands of drunk drivers in Illinois every year. But did you know that these checkpoints aren’t legal in every state? In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the legality of DUI checkpoints in the US and in Illinois, and we explain what you should do if you end up getting in trouble at a sobriety checkpoint.
Why Illinois Allows DUI Checkpoints
In order to understand that legality of DUI checkpoints, we need to take a closer look at a case that reached the United States Supreme Court back in 1990. In the case of Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444, the legality of sobriety checkpoints came under question. The defendant in the case argued that these checkpoints were inherently a violation of a person’s 4th amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. After all, police are essentially conducting a search of a driver without any reasonable suspicion that they may be in violation of the law.
In their ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in a 6-3 decision that given the responsibilities accepted by a driver when they get behind the wheel, sobriety checkpoints did not violate a person’s right to be protected against unreasonable searches. However, the highest court in the country also stated that the legality of these checkpoints could be decided on the state level based on a state’s constitution.
So while the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling acted as a guide, states were allowed to make their own decision on the matter. Since then, at least 10 states have ruled that these checkpoints actually do constitute a violation of their state constitution. Our neighbors Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota are among the states that have banned the practice, but sobriety checkpoints are still considered legal here in Illinois.
However, even though they are legal here in Illinois, it doesn’t mean that police have free reign to conduct them as they please. The Illinois Department of Transportation has issued some guidelines in order for these checkpoints to be considered legal at the state level. These checkpoints:
- Must be announced ahead of time, either in a press release or media advertisement.
- Must have operational plans for which vehicles will be stopped. In other words, police can’t stop every single driver. Instead, they must choose a way in which vehicles will be stopped at the checkpoint. For example, they will stop every third car that enters the checkpoint.
- Must be conducted within a reasonable time constraint. These checkpoints and traffic stops must be set up and conducted within a timely matter and cannot continue indefinitely.
Caught In A DUI Checkpoint
There are countless ways to avoid a DUI checkpoint in Illinois, especially since police will have to announce when and where the checkpoint is taking place. Moreover, you are legally allowed to avoid a DUI roadblock in Illinois so long as you conduct a legal driving move. That means you can turn down a side street or turn into a gas station if you see a checkpoint coming up, but you can’t do illegal moves like a U-turn or turning down a one-way street. However, know that police will often be looking for cars trying to avoid the checkpoint, and if they spot a driving infraction, they might conduct a traffic stop and look for signs of intoxication.
If you are caught in one of these checkpoints and end up with a DUI, the best thing you can do is to contact a criminal defense lawyer like Brett and the team at Appelman Law. We have extensive experience contesting standard DUI charges and those stemming from a sobriety checkpoint. We know all the ways to put forth a strong defense and challenge the legality of your traffic stop. Your license, your freedom and your hard earned money will all be on the line, so don’t just plead guilty and hope for leniency. Hire a lawyer, put forth a strong defense and earn a better outcome. To get started with this process, pick up the phone and set up your free case evaluation with Appelman Law today at (630) 717-7801.