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DUI Checkpoints – Why They Exist

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DUI Checkpoints – Why They Exist


DUI Checkpoints & The Supreme Court

dui checkpoint alerts

DUI checkpoints, have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. In the 1990 case of Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), the court reviewed a checkpoint scheme to detect drunk drivers. Michigan demonstrated that its checkpoint program was minimally intrusive. In addition, they relied heavily upon the fact that Michigan established and operated the DUI checkpoints pursuant to specific procedural safeguards. The Court relied heavily upon a decision of the California Supreme Court, Ingersoll v. Palmer, 742 P.2d 1299 (1987).  Like Sitz, the Ingersoll case placed strict procedural guidelines on the government.

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City of Indianapolis v. Edmond

In 2000, at the height of the drug war, Indianapolis set up a roadblock for the purpose of drug interdiction. They stopped every car. The Indianapolis Police Department checkpoint included a plain view search of each of the cars it stopped. A drug sniffing dog sniffed around each car.  This case wound its way to the United States Supreme Court. In City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000), the Court found the drug checkpoint defective, writing:

We have never approved a checkpoint program whose primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing. Rather, our checkpoint cases have recognized only limited exceptions to the general rules that a seizure must be accompanied by some measure of individualized suspicion. We suggest in Prouse that we would not credit the “general interest in crime control” as justification for a regime of suspicionless stops, 440 U.S. at 659 n.18. Consistent with this suggestion, each of the checkpoint programs that we have approved was designed primarily to serve purposes closely related to the problem of policing the border or the necessity of ensuring roadway safety. Because the primary purpose of the Indianapolis narcotics checkpoint program is to uncover evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing, the program contravenes the Fourth Amendment.

[Edmond, 531 U.S. at 41-42].

In addition, the opinion forcefully stated that a roadblock cannot be used for the primary purpose of detecting crimes. That is un-American.  It wrote:

The primary purpose of the Indianapolis narcotics checkpoints is in the end to advance”the general interest in crime control.” Prouse, 440 U.S. at 659, n. 18. We decline to suspend the usual requirement of individualized suspicion where the police seek to employ a checkpoint primarily for the ordinary enterprise of investigating crimes. We cannot sanction stops justified only by the generalized and ever-present possibility that interrogation and inspection may reveal that any given motorist has committed some crime.

[Edmond, 531 U.S. at 44].

I Oppose DUI Checkpoints!

I oppose DUI checkpoints. In addition, think that the current emphasis on illicit and prescription drug use changes in kind and purpose the nature of Ohio’s DUI checkpoint scheme. Consequently, it morphed from a minimally intrusive stop into a lengthy and invasive process. What’s more, the easy reliance of some jurisdictions on forced blood draws emphasizes the changes over time. In addition, it is inconceivable to me that our country could stray so far away from our Constitutional moorings. Thankfully, the Supreme Court has laid the groundwork for future challenges.

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“All I do is DUI defense.”


Charles Rowland


Charles M. Rowland II has been representing the accused drunk driver for over 20 years. Contact him at (937) 318-1384 if you find yourself facing a DUI (now called OVI) charge.

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