The holidays are right around the corner, and it is this time of the year that we see an increase in DUI checkpoints in and around the metro Denver area. DUI checkpoints have been held to be constitutional by both the United States Supreme Court and the Colorado Supreme Court. These courts have reasoned that there is a substantial state interest in conducting DUI checkpoints due to the fact that each year an incredible number of people are injured or killed as a result of impaired driving. In order to satisfy the constitutional protections afforded against unreasonable searches and seizures, however, there are certain guidelines that must be met in order for the checkpoint to be constitutionally valid.
First, there must be a demonstrable reason for selecting the specific site for the checkpoint. For example, does that particular location see greater than average DUI arrests or greater than average accident rates? Second, the checkpoint must be marked and conspicuous. There must also be a way for motorists to exit prior to entering the checkpoint, thereby avoiding the checkpoint. Further, the intrusion must be minimal. Contact with motorists must be brief, and if there is no suspicion of intoxication, the motorist must be permitted to continue on his or her way.
The law enforcement agencies that conduct checkpoint investigations in Colorado have developed thorough policies and guidelines to ensure that their checkpoints satisfy all constitutional requirements. At the least, the checkpoint should be announced, well-marked, allow drivers to avoid it, and the police intrusion must be brief. There should be detailed plans and policies beyond that are developed by each agency. Further, there must be statistical data to demonstrate the need for the checkpoint at any given location. This all should be documented and available upon request.
If you are stopped and arrested for DUI at a checkpoint this holiday season, contact a well-trained Denver DUI lawyer for guidance. The difference between a conviction and an acquittal or dismissal may lie in the nuances of the DUI laws regarding the checkpoint you were stopped at.