DUI Checkpoints

DUI Checkpoints in Colorado

DUI Checkpoints, or roadblocks, are standard for most Colorado law enforcement agencies. They usually involve law enforcement officials setting up roadblocks on heavily trafficked streets and highways in an effort to detect drunk drivers. They are often used during holiday weekends, although they can be set up on random days throughout the year.

What to Know About Checkpoints

One basic fact to know about checkpoints is that they are a seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which means that they must be conducted in a reasonable manner, so as not to create an undue burden on the motorists trying to travel through the checkpoint. To explain it another way, U.S. citizens have a constitutional right to travel on the roadways of the United States in a manner free of law enforcement scrutiny as long as a person is obeying traffic laws. During a checkpoint, the police, by necessity, are stopping motorists who have not done anything wrong. Thus, the stopping of a motorist on a roadway constitutes a "search" or "seizure" under the Fourth Amendment. Because of this, law enforcement must make sure the rights of motorists are not violated.

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The Supreme Court has recommended certain rules for DUI checkpoints to law enforcement officials with these factors in mind. One of the more important guidelines encourage the police to create exit points before the checkpoint that allows motorists to avoid them if they choose. The police are not allowed to stop someone for avoiding a checkpoint unless they independently violate traffic laws that would allow an officer to detain them. Most checkpoints will have signage in advance of the checkpoint that advise motorists that there is a checkpoint ahead. Often, agencies will notify the public of the existence of a DUI checkpoint, not only to raise awareness to it, but to give motorists a chance to avoid driving through it.

What to Expect from a Checkpoint

The police are generally discouraged from investigating other potential crimes during a DUI checkpoint. For example, the police are not allowed to look for drugs or weapons in cars under the ruse of stopping the car for a DUI checkpoint. The primary purpose of the checkpoint must always be to screen a driver for impaired driving, and if there is none, to release the driver as soon as possible.

If there appears to be drug or alcohol impairment exhibited by a driver, the driver is usually directed to another screening area where more officers can perform a more thorough DUI investigation, such as putting the driver through roadside maneuvers. If the police believe there is probable cause to arrest, they will arrest the driver and have them perform a blood or breath test, often at the site of the checkpoint.