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Your Rights Involving DUI Traffic Stops and Roadblocks

Jason Apollo Hart, Attorney At Law Nov. 10, 2019

Traffic stops, also known as traffic safety checkpoints, DUI checkpoints, or mobile checkpoints, are roadblocks setup by police under the pretext to stop drunk and intoxicated driving. Traffic stops are more common during the holiday seasons when people are more likely to be drinking. While these roadblocks are intended to protect motorists from drunk drivers, there are times when they are executed in a manner that is unconstitutional and can therefore cause evidence obtained during these traffic stops to be found inadmissible in court.

Despite some popular beliefs,traffic stops are legal in Kentucky as long as they meet certain criteria. If these checkpoints are found to not meet the criteria, there stands a good chance individuals facing DUI charges stemming from a traffic stop can request a motion to suppress evidence and potentially have their case dismissed.

In order to preserve the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, these roadblock must be deemed "reasonable" by law. This is because the U.S. Supreme Court has held that stopping a car at a roadblock constitutes seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Police are not allowed to perform traffic stops in order to prevent crime in general and the purpose must be for the betterment of the common good without causing undue interference in the lives of motorists involved in the roadblock. During a routine traffic stop, police typically ask for driver's license, vehicle registration, where the car is coming from, and its destination. If at any point during the routine stop police believe the driver is intoxicated or otherwise impaired, they are expected to have the vehicle pulled to the side and attempt to administer a sobriety test to the driver.

For a traffic stop to be deemed reasonable, the purpose of the traffic stop must outweigh the brief restraint of motorists who are stopped at the roadblock. In the case of removing drunk drivers from the roadways, the need is often viewed as greater than the inconvenience of stopping motorists. However, there are aspects that must be considered when police setup roadblocks to determine their legality: Does the traffic stop advance public interest by removing dangerous drivers from the road? To what degree is the severity of the interference with individual liberty?

A 2003 Kentucky Supreme Court case (Kentucky v. Buchanon 122 S.W. 3d 565 (2003)) laid out a series of four requirements necessary for a DUI checkpoint to be legal. The requirements are known as the Buchanon Requirements and are as follows:

  1. Decisions regarding location, time, and procedures governing a checkpoint need to be determined by supervisory law enforcement officers. Important decisions cannot be governed by low ranking officers. Low ranking officers wishing to set up a checkpoint need to seek permission from a supervisor first. The location for the checkpoint also should not affect public safety.

  2. Any law enforcement officers working the checkpoint need to comply with all procedures established by their superiors, so that each motorist passing through the checkpoint receives the same treatment. It's imperative that a procedure is put in place to prevent field officers from being able to decide with unfettered discretion which vehicles to stop and how the stop is handled.

  3. The nature of a checkpoint should be clear to approaching motorists. The state government advises placing signs warning of a checkpoint ahead in front of the checkpoint. At least some of the officers at the checkpoint should also be in uniform with marked patrol cars.

  4. The length of stops can be used as a determining factor in deciding how intrusive a checkpoint is. Officers should not detain a motorist any longer than necessary to perform a quick examination of the vehicle along with a check for license and registration. If an officer has reasonable suspicion that a driver has violated the law, that driver should be pulled off to the side so that other motorists can proceed through the checkpoint.

In review, checkpoints in Kentucky have to be organized in a structured manner and follow a specific protocol. Law enforcement officers must work with supervisors in the organization of traffic stops, there have to be specific guidelines in how cars are stopped to ensure all motorists receive the same treatment, the roadblock and officers must be readily apparent and visible to drivers, and drivers must not be stopped for an undue amount of time.

The court has noted that the four factors outlined aren't exhaustive when considering the validity of a checkpoint. The court has also made it clear that violation of any one factor does not necessarily result in a constitutional violation. However, failure to meet the outlined requirements may render a checkpoint illegal.

If you are facing a DUI charge stemming from an arrest at a traffic checkpoint, it's important to you know your rights and which steps to take. First and foremost, we advise not talking to the police any further and contacting a DUI Defense Attorney immediately. ApolloLaw has successfully provided Kentucky criminal defense services for 8 years. Our attorney fully understands Kentucky DUI Laws and has extensive experience in protecting clients' 4th Amendment rights.

If you have any questions about Kentucky traffic stops or about your constitutional rights in regards to being stopped at a roadblock, contact Apollo Law today by using the contact form below or calling 502-892-0042. Don't let unlawful search and seizure ruin your life, contact us today.