Oftentimes, before holidays, we’ll hear or read in the news, and probably most often anymore, read through a social media site, that a roadblock is going to be set up the night before, or on the actual, holiday or during the holiday weekend. More recently, roadblocks have been referred to as “DUI checkpoints”. In this blog, we’ll discuss the criteria that must be evaluated when determining whether a DUI checkpoint, or roadblock, is legal..
A legal, or “constitutional,” roadblock must meet specific criteria. Thus, not all roadblocks are legal. Throughout the years, the development of the body of law concerning roadblocks has gotten to a point where Tennessee courts are required to look for specific factors to determine whether a roadblock is constitutional. Without getting into the history of cases forming the body of law concerning roadblocks, it is important to know that three specific criteria must always be evaluated when considering whether a roadblock is constitutional.
According to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the three criteria that must be evaluated when considering whether a roadblock is legal, or constitutional, are as follows: 1) the importance of the public concern served by the roadblock; b) the extent the roadblock promotes the public interest; and c) the significance of the roadblock as it relates to our right to be free from unlawful stops or “seizures” (see our previous blog that concerns traffic stops).
So, what does all of this mean? With regard to the first factor, there must be a public concern that is served by the roadblock. In other words, random roadblocks that may just be set up on a whim, without a specific purpose or without regard to a specific public concern, are not likely going to be determined to be legal. Second, does the public have an interest in the roadblock and to what extent is the public’s interest promoted? For example, does the public have an interest in law enforcement preventing individuals from driving under the influence versus law enforcement setting up roadblocks to make sure every driver is complying with the restrictions of his or her driver’s license. And, lastly, what is the significance of the roadblock; or, how important is the roadblock when compared to an individual’s right to be free from an unlawful traffic stop?
You can’t drive on an interstate, or listen to the radio, without, at some point, reading or hearing about efforts to “crack down” on driving under the influence. Without question, “cracking down” on driving under the influence is a significant objective of law enforcement. Anymore, we see law enforcement officers whose only responsibility is to patrol and look for driver’s who may be under the influence. Therefore, “DUI checkpoints” have been deemed to be legal, or constitutional, when analyzing the checkpoints’ importance when considering the criteria above.
Evaluating the above criteria, and determining the legality of a roadblock, is not as simple as checking three boxes. If you, or someone you know, has been arrested at a DUI checkpoint, contact Murfreesboro criminal defense attorneys Parkerson Santel PLLC. Our firm can be reached at 615-956-7938. Our office is located at 121 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, TN 37130.