Pinellas DUI Checkpoints – This Christmas & New Year Season You Better Not Drive – Drunk!
This Holiday Season 2011 the Pinellas County Sheriffs Department has been setting up DUI roadblocks at various locations throughout Pinellas County. A DUI roadblock, or “sobriety checkpoint”, is a location chosen by law enforcement on the public roads where they station several officers in order to wave over certain vehicles which drive up to that point. Among the officers stationed at a DUI roadblock are typically DUI investigators, Intoxylizer breath-test operators and drug-detection K-9 units. So far this year the Pinellas County Sheriffs Office has conducted these road blocks at locations on Alt. 19 in Palm Harbor, US 19 North in Clearwater, 137th Avenue Circle, Madeira Beach and Ulmerton Road in Clearwater. The locations and times of the roadblocks are typically posted by the Sheriffs Office on their website ahead of time and reported in the local news media.
Because the cars and drivers at a DUI roadblock are being ordered to stop by the police usually without any advance reasonable suspicion or probable cause of illegal activity, the courts have ruled that the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that the police operate the DUI roadblocks under specific vehicle selection procedures, duty assignments, detention techniques, and procedures for the disposition of vehicles which limit the discretion of the officers at the road block. The danger which the courts want to avoid is having police set up a roadblock and then only stop vehicles whose drivers look suspicious or otherwise don’t fit the officers’ idea of a model citizen.
In order to avoid giving police the opportunity to pick and choose who gets pulled over without any legal basis whatsoever, the courts require that each police agency setting up and running a DUI roadblock must prepare in advance specific written guidelines which detail a set of neutral criteria which will determine which cars get stopped for further investigation. See Guy v. State of Florida, 993 So.2d 77 (2008). Typically these criteria involve directions that each third, fourth, fifth or other number of vehicles will be pulled aside for investigation. The criteria cannot allow for officers at the scene of the roadblock to use their discretion in choosing which drivers get investigated.
While the Sheriff’s Office in Pinellas County has increased the use of DUI roadblocks this holiday season, they are often used year-round by other police department also. Many drivers are typically arrested during a DUI roadblock for crimes ranging from DUI, Driving While Licence Suspended, Drug Possession or even outstanding arrest warrants. If you or someone you know has been arrested at a DUI roadblock, you should contact an experienced criminal attorney to advise whether there are reasons to bring a motion to suppress or to dismiss, or issues which may mitigate the sentence in the case.