In our last post, we began speaking about DUI checkpoints and their legality in the state of Maryland. One of the points we tried to hit home was that DUI checkpoints do not destroy the constitutional protections owed to motorists. As we noted, this includes the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and to remain silent in the face of police interrogations. This is an important point to understand, not only during the investigation itself but also afterward in scrutinizing the police investigation itself.
If an individual is arrested at a DUI checkpoint and faces criminal charges, it should not automatically be assumed that officers did everything correctly in handling the investigation. In scrutinizing DUI checkpoint investigations, it is important to pay particular attention to the authority underlying any vehicle searches.
Police are generally not allowed to conduct any searches without a warrant, though there are exceptions. The most likely scenario for an unwarranted vehicle search at a DUI checkpoint is that officers see evidence of a crime in plain sight, just by looking into the vehicle. Another common possibility is that officers search the vehicle upon arresting the driver. In either case, legal problems can arise. A couple of important factors in scrutinizing these searches are whether officers went beyond the scope appropriate for a search and whether officers had probable cause to make the arrest that preceded a vehicle search.
We’ve made the point on this blog in the past, but it bears repeating: police investigation which goes awry can quickly lead to illegality. It is important for anybody subjected to what they believe may have been an illegal police investigation to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to make sure they build the strongest case possible in order to protect their rights.