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Sobriety Checkpoints

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Definition - What does Sobriety Checkpoints mean?

Although it would seem that sobriety checkpoints are an infringement of individual's rights as outlined in the United States Fourth Amendment against illegal search and seizure or "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures". The right of the U.S. Government to perform such stops was reaffirmed by the United States Supreme Court on June 14, 1990, in Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that such stops are not necessarily "unreasonable" and Chief Justice Rehniquist argued "the state's interest in reducing drunk driving outweighed this minor infringement".

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established recommended guidelines for sobriety checkpoints to follow state and federal decisions. Guidelines include:

  1. The prosecuting attorney and the jurisdictions presiding judge should be aware of the proposed checkpoints and the procedures which will be used at these points.
  2. The jurisdiction must have established specific department policies for conducting a sobriety checkpoint.
  3. Sobriety checkpoints must be chosen for a specific reason and in the public's interest.
  4. Adequate care must be made to warn drivers of the sobriety checkpoint.
  5. A portable breath testing machine with a trained operator should be at the sobriety checkpoint.
  6. Uniformed police officers should be present.
  7. Officers should be properly trained to carry out the sobriety tests.
  8. Sobriety checkpoints should be well publicized.
  9. A systematic data collection and evaluation process must be established.

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