Many people in Louisiana are charged with driving while intoxicated every year. While a number of these charges arise from regular traffic stops, some people are charged with DWIs after they drive through sobriety checkpoints. Unlike regular traffic stops, officers do not need to have reasonable suspicion that the motorists who drive through checkpoints may have committed crimes or traffic offenses before stopping them.

What are sobriety checkpoints?

Sobriety checkpoints are areas determined in advance at which law enforcement officers stop vehicles at predetermined intervals to check for signs that drivers may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The officers might stop every fifth car or whichever interval was determined when the checkpoint was planned. Checkpoints must be publicized and visible. They are meant to serve as a deterrent to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Effectiveness and legality of checkpoints

Checkpoints are legal and allowed in 38 states, including Louisiana. While challenges have been made to the constitutionality of checkpoints, they have been upheld by state supreme courts and the Supreme Court of the United States. Checkpoints must be established and run correctly, however. Law enforcement agencies must plan them in advance and choose the intervals that will be used for the stops. They must be well-publicized and clearly marked.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that checkpoints result in a drop in alcohol-related crashes of 20%. A private study found that checkpoints held in non-downtown areas result in a negligible drop in DUI crashes, but those held in downtown areas result in a significant decline. In some cases, law enforcement agencies may combine saturation patrols with DUI checkpoints.

People who are stopped at checkpoints and are charged with driving under the influence may want to retain experienced DUI defense lawyers before they enter a plea. An experienced criminal defense lawyer might review how the checkpoint was established and run to determine if any violations occurred. The lawyer might also challenge the administration of the standardized roadside sobriety tests or chemical tests if problems are identified.