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Are DUI Checkpoints Constitutional?

Out of 50 states, 38 states allow the authorities to conduct DUI checkpoints. Washington is one of only 12 states which prohibits their use. The other states which prohibit the use of DUI checkpoints are: Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. But are DUI checkpoints a violation of an individual’s fourth amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizures?

State’s Rulings

Ever since 1990, it has been left up to the states to decide whether DUI checkpoints are conducted. As a result, some states have passed legislation either banning or legalizing their use and other states have ruled them illegal under their state constitution. Notably, Texas has prohibited the use of DUI checkpoints based on the state’s interpretation of the federal constitution. Washington law makes DUI checkpoints illegal except in cases where there is an authorizing statute.

Federal Rulings

The reason why the use of DUI checkpoints was left up to the states in 1990 was because of a Supreme Court decision. Prior to the ruling, a group of Michigan drivers filed a suit after they had been arrested at a DUI roadblock. They argued that because they had been stopped without probable cause or any suspicion whatsoever, their arrests violated the 4th amendment. The Michigan State Supreme Court sided with the drivers.

However, the case ended up making it to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, in a split decision, the Supreme Court overruled the Michigan Court. The decision was based on the belief that the roadblocks were necessary to protect other drivers. The dissenting judges argued that regardless of whether they were necessary, the constitution didn’t make exceptions. Whether beneficial or not, the DUI checkpoints were unconstitutional.

In the end, the Supreme Court’s decision ended up leaving it to states to decide. Here in Washington, DUI checkpoints are illegal. However, the debate still rages about whether or not DUI checkpoints violate our 4th amendment protections.

If you have been charged with DUI in the state of Washington, contact Dan Murphy’s Law Offices today for a free consultation.

Call today — (253) 312-6122 — your future may depend on it.


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33515 10th Place South, #17
Federal Way, WA 98063

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506 S. 11th St.
Tacoma, WA 98402

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  • DUI Cases
  • Criminal Defense
  • Auto Accidents
  • Personal Injury
  • Drug Forfeiture
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Murphy’s Law Offices
506 S. 11th St.
Tacoma, WA 98402
Phone: (253) 312-6122

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