Is it Illegal to Avoid DUI Checkpoints on Highways

What is DUI Checkpoint?

A sobriety checkpoint is a predetermined location at which. law enforcement officers stop vehicles at a predetermined location to check whether the driver is impaired. They either stop every vehicle or stop vehicles at some regular interval, such as every third or tenth vehicle.

Is it Illegal to Avoid DUI Checkpoints on Highways?

The DUI checkpoints in Washington are typically set up in areas and at moments when there are more likely to be drunk drivers on the roads, such as right after bars and nightclubs close or during certain events. However, these DUI checkpoints are unconstitutional for people who live in Washington state. According to Weber Law, the municipal and district courts received over 29,000 DUI cases last year.

A DUI checkpoint can never be forced upon anyone. Police must inform locals when they are conducting DUI checkpoints. You might not be able to turn around and go the other way once you reach a specific point on the highway where you might be approaching a DUI checkpoint. However, in cases where you can turn around safely and without violating traffic laws, you can legally avoid DUI checkpoints.

Any driver has the choice to avoid highways during checkpoint hours since the police are required to notify the community of checkpoint locations. Police would still be able to conduct regular traffic stops and DUI investigations whenever they wanted, but those inquiries would need to adhere to Fourth Amendment guidelines.

DUI Checkpoints in Washington are Unconstitutional

Law enforcement officials frequently set up roadblocks in specific areas and conduct DUI checkpoints there. In areas where DUI is prevalent or during holidays when alcohol or drug use is expected, the police typically set up these checkpoints. Drivers who pass through the checkpoint must stop so that the officers can determine whether they are lucid or not.

Thankfully, DUI checkpoints are unconstitutional in Washington. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled in City of Seattle v. Mesiani in 1988 that these roadblocks have no specific suspicion of criminal activity. This is broken by the Washington State Constitution’s Article I, Section 7. Police in Washington are, therefore, not permitted to set up DUI checkpoints. 

Additionally, the State Constitution protects a person’s right to privacy while at home or conducting private business, including driving. Washington is one of ten states that forbids DUI checkpoints, along with Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The state’s Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that a DUI checkpoint policy in Seattle “violated the right not to be disturbed in one’s private affairs.” In other words, the court determined that residents of Washington have a constitutional right to be left alone in their “private affairs,” which means that law enforcement is not permitted to detain you or otherwise intrude with your personal affairs unless they have a compelling, legitimate, and particular reason to do so.

When Can a Police Officer Stop You for a DUI Suspicion? 

Police officers are permitted to stop suspected drunk drivers, even though they are not authorized to set up DUI checkpoints in Washington. The officers have a legal justification for pulling the driver over if they have a reasonable and explicable suspicion.

A police officer may stop a driver for various reasons, including the following.

  • Exceeding the speed limit
  • Dangerous lane changes
  • Driving erratically or aggressively
  • Failing to stop completely at a stoplight or red light
  • Driving while swerving or veering off the same lane
  • Ignoring the turn signals on a car or failing to yield

DUI Penalties in The State of Washington

If you are found guilty of DUI in Washington, you could be subject to severe punishments. A DUI conviction usually carries a mandatory 24-hour jail sentence, a possible 364-day sentence, or 15 days of house arrest. Financial penalties, jail time, and a minimum 90-day license suspension are possible penalties.

Sometimes police officers stop people for no good reason and arrest them for DUI. Your privacy rights may have been violated if you are accused of DUI following a routine traffic stop by police departments, and the court may be willing to dismiss the charges against you.

It is crucial to consult with a criminal defense attorney in these cases. An attorney can assess your situation and determine whether the officers made an unlawful arrest. As soon as you are arrested, speak with a Washington DUI defense attorney about your options.

What Must the Police Do to Establish a Checkpoint Legally?

The community must be informed of checkpoint locations by the police. Checkpoints must be visible so that people know they are passing through one. Once the allotted time has passed, the checkpoint processes must end.

Because checkpoints do not adhere to the traditional constitutional requirements of a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, some obligations must be fulfilled. 

That implies that a driver would need to receive some public notice informing them of checkpoints. Usually, the police inform the media about it, or it appears on the Facebook page, Twitter feed, or other social media accounts of the Metropolitan Police Department.