A recent internet news story described a DUI roadblock or sobriety checkpoint in Dunkirk, Calvert County, where 1054 cars were stopped and one person was arrested for drunk driving. Four Arrests Made at Dunkirk Sobriety Checkpoint (other arrests were made but not for drunk driving). This would appear to have violated the Fourth Amendment under the rule announced in Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz.
In Sitz, the US Supreme Court applied a three-part balancing derived from earlier cases addressing random identification checks, random license checks, roving patrols, and checkpoints near the border. The three factors considered were: the state’s interest in enforcing the drunk driving laws; the extent to which the state’s interest was advanced by the checkpoint; and the level of intrusion to individuals stopped by police.
In Sitz, the Supreme Court found that Michigan had a high interest in enforcing the drunk driving laws. The roadblock was found to be sufficiently selective in advancing that interest. The roadblock netted two arrests for 126 vehicles stopped. Expressed as a percentage, about 1.6% of the drivers passing through the checkpoint were arrested. The Court noted that in the border checkpoint case, a ratio of 0.5% illegal aliens detected to the number of vehicles stopped had been held to pass constitutional muster. As to the level of intrusion, the Court noted that the checkpoints were administered according to guidelines that reduced the discretion of officers in the field. The average delay of individual vehicles was 25 seconds. Thus the roadblock did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
In the Dunkirk checkpoint, to the contrary, only one person was arrested of 1054 drivers, or an arrest to vehicle rate of under .1%. This is lower than the previously approved ratio, and would seem to establish that the Dunkirk checkpoint was ineffective, and therefore, in violation of the Fourth Amendment when the low effectiveness is balanced against the State’s interest and the level of intrusion.
If you are facing serious traffic charges in Maryland state or federal court, call Leonard R. Stamm or Johanna Leshner of Goldstein & Stamm, P.A. at 301-345-0122 for a free consultation.