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Sobriety checkpoints: a defense perspective, P.3

We’ve been talking in our last couple posts about sobriety checkpoints, offering some comments on their effectiveness, or lack thereof, depending on the statistics you are looking at and your point of view. Turning to the issue of legality, it is a fact that sobriety checkpoints are permitted here in Maryland. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, sobriety checkpoints are conducted on a weekly basis, presumably to build up the deterrent effect of this law enforcement tool.

The legality of sobriety checkpoints is an important issue in states which allow them—and not all states do. The Supreme Court has ruled that, in order to satisfy the Fourth Amendment requirement concerning searches and seizures, sobriety checkpoints must be reasonable and not overly intrusive to driver’s privacy. 

When evaluating the legality of a sobriety checkpoint, the primary concern for Maryland courts is to ensure that the promotion of the government’s legitimate interest in preventing drunken driving is balanced with the privacy concerns of drivers. Various factors are taken into consideration when making this determination, including:

  • The location, time and duration of the roadblock
  • Whether advance notice was given to the public
  • Whether advance warning was given to motorists approaching the roadblock
  • Whether the roadblock presented any unsafe road conditions
  • Whether there are less intrusive methods of address the problem of drunken driving
  • The extent to which the roadblock, by virtue of the manner in which it was operated, produced fear or anxiety among participating motorists
  • The average length of time motorists are detained

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at these factors and the way in which some fo them can impact the legality of sobriety checkpoints.

Source: nlelp.org, “Maryland TSRP July Blog: Sobriety Checkpoints,” David Daggett, Accessed July 29, 2015. 

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