dui checkpoints in wa state

DUI Checkpoints In WA State

DUI checkpoints are a law enforcement practice where the police will set up a roadblock to stop and check drivers as they pass through. The purpose of these DUI checkpoints is to catch motorists who happen to be driving under the influence (DUI).

In some states, DUI checkpoints are a common occurrence, especially around the holidays and in areas that are known for merry-making and revelry. In these states, DUI checkpoints are an exception to the rule that the police need to have reasonable and articulable suspicion to pull you over.

Typically, in order for the police to lawfully pull you over, they must have a valid reason to do so, i.e. probable cause or because they have seen you commit a traffic violation, like:

  • Speeding
  • Failure to maintain a lane
  • Failure to come to a full stop at a stop sign
  • Not using your turn signals
  • Not having your headlights on
  • Having a broken brake light

But, in 39 states across the country, the police can set up checkpoints and are allowed to stop you for no other reason than the fact that you are passing through that checkpoint. Fortunately, for residents of Washington state, this is not the case.

Washington State and DUI Checkpoints

The Supreme Court of the State of Washington has made it clear that it considers DUI checkpoints to be unconstitutional. In fact, Washington, along with Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, is one 10 states that prohibit DUI checkpoints.

In 1988, the state’s Supreme Court stated that a law enforcement practice in Seattle involving DUI checkpoints “violated the right to not be disturbed in one’s private affairs.”  In other words, the court held that Washington citizens have a constitutional right not to be disturbed in their “private affairs,” meaning that law enforcement doesn’t have a right to randomly stop and detain you, or otherwise interfere in your personal activities unless they have a specific, valid, and compelling reason for doing so.

The Legality of DUI Checkpoints in the Other States

The other 39 states allow DUI checkpoints, in large part, based on two notable cases heard by The Supreme Court of the United States, namely the City of Indianapolis v Edmond and Michigan Department of State Police v Sitz.

In the latter case, the majority held in that since police have a specific interest in catching people driving while intoxicated, and a brief stop at a checkpoint doesn’t amount to much of deprivation, the rights of citizens are not being violated, and that DUI checkpoints can be permitted in order to give law enforcement the latitude necessary to catch people committing a dangerous crime.

The former case, however, held that while specific interests of law enforcement can be served by random checkpoints i.e. border security, DUI, or a police manhunt, these types of suspicionless searches should be limited to certain situations that do not include the detection of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.

Thus, in order for a DUI checkpoint to be constitutional, it has to have a specific primary purpose. It also has to be minimally intrusive, meaning that the stop should not last very long (20-30 seconds, for example).

In addition, the DUI checkpoint must be clearly marked as such and the police need to demonstrate that it is a legitimate police checkpoint. What’s more, you need to have the option of turning around or away from the DUI checkpoint if you don’t want to go through it.

Have You Been Charged With DUI After Being Randomly Stopped By The Police?

Police in Washington has no legal authority to set up DUI checkpoints or to engage in randomly stopping motorists without reasonable suspicion that they have violated the law. However, this does not stop the police from doing this from time to time.

If you have been charged with a DUI after a sobriety checkpoint or a random stop by law enforcement in Spokane or elsewhere in Washington, your constitutional rights may have been violated.

Contact Bugbee Law Office to find out what this means to the charge against you and how we can help you protect your rights. Call us at (509) 337-5082 or visit our contact page to arrange a free consultation with an experienced Spokane DUI attorney.

Bugbee Law Office, P.S.  (509) 337-5082

1312 N Monroe St, Ste 147

Spokane, WA 99201 |  View Map

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