Do I Have to Stop at a DUI Checkpoint in Minnesota?
Drunk driving is a serious problem in the United States and Minnesota, with drunk drivers causing thousands of injuries and deaths every single year. When you get behind the wheel while drinking, you have impaired judgement and limited motor skills. This condition makes operating a vehicle extremely dangerous. To combat these drivers, many states establish roadblocks to catch drunk drivers before they proceed onto the road. However, Minnesota does not enforce these roadblocks because they are unconstitutional.
What Are DUI Checkpoints?
DUI checkpoints and roadblocks are mechanisms that police officers use to catch drunk drivers on the road. When you encounter a sobriety checkpoint on the road, you will have to stop, speak to a law enforcement officer, and, depending on the officer’s judgment, perform a field sobriety test. Usually, police officers notify the public of these roadblocks beforehand. The purpose of these checkpoints is to catch drivers who may not seem drunk, but who have been drinking during the night.
Many states across the country conduct DUI checkpoints – in fact, 40 out of the 50 states in the U.S. set these roadblocks up regularly. However, Minnesota is not one of these states. According to a 1994 Minnesota State Supreme Court ruling, these checkpoints violate the constitutional rights of drivers on the road.
Why Does Minnesota Not Enforce DUI Checkpoints?
The United States Supreme Court recognizes the constitutional validity of DUI checkpoints. However, the Minnesota State Supreme Court ruled in the 1994 case Ascher v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 519 N.W.2d 183 that DUI roadblocks are unconstitutional and violate search and seizure rights. As a result, Minnesota does not enforce these checkpoints to protect drivers’ rights on the road.
Proponents of DUI checkpoints believe that they can help reduce drunk driving significantly. The main argument is that the presence of a DUI checkpoint alone can deter drivers from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. However, the practice of these roadblocks contradicts the search and seizure amendment of the United States Constitution.
According to the Constitution, every U.S. citizen has the right to be free of unreasonable searches, seizures, and intrusions by the government and law enforcement entities. These bodies must have probable cause, or a clear and specific suspicion that you are doing something wrong. Police officers cannot simply stop you, search you, and take things from you because they feel like it. To be subject to a search or seizure, the police must have a warrant.
According to the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, DUI checkpoints violate this right and are a form of unreasonable searches. They open drivers to vulnerable rights abuses and potential discrimination.
What Does Minnesota Do About Drunk Driving?
Just because Minnesota lawmakers do not conduct DUI checkpoints, the state does not turn a blind eye to drunk driving. In fact, Minnesota police keep an eye out for actions and behaviors that signal intoxicated driving, and will pull a person over if they engage in any of them.
- Erratic swerving on the road
- Excessive drifting in lanes
- Driving in the opposite lane
- Driving without headlights when necessary
- Illegal turns or abrupt turns with no signal
- Tailgating other vehicles on the road
- Sudden and frequent braking
Drivers found to be driving while drunk could face significant consequences, such as jail time, heavy fines, license suspensions, and other sanctions. The higher a driver’s blood alcohol level is, a past history of DUI convictions, bodily harm caused to the driver and other people, refusal to engage with the police, and other instances of violence can all increase the severity of these punishments.
DUI charges range from fourth-degree DUIs to first-degree DUIs, and can result in jail time of up to seven years in prison and fines up to $14,000. If you face charges for DUI in Minnesota, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.