Abusive Sobriety Checkpoint Practices

Posted by James Ferguson | Aug 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

Sobriety checkpoints are permitted in the state of Mississippi. Nevertheless, Mississippi has not made a formal ruling on sobriety checkpoints; Mississippi permits police officers to merely create roadblocks. In turn, police officers are permitted to stop those who attempt to evade roadblocks. Unlike the formal stops, sobriety checkpoints do not require probable cause, individualized suspicion, or any specific, targeted goal. Furthermore, the location of the roadblock should be random and temporary. The roadblock should not be a constant and cannot be associated with any specific reason other than general “public safety” purposes. Police departments who do not follow these guidelines are at risk of implementing abusive sobriety checkpoint practices.

Individualized Suspicion
A police department that creates a roadblock with a specific goal of arresting drivers for specific reasons other than to ensure safe driving is at risk of abusing the aims of a sobriety checkpoint. According to the constitutional provisions against unlawful search and seizure, the intrusion caused by a checkpoint outweighs any minor breach of the expectation of privacy. This is the legal hook that makes sobriety checkpoints legal. To complete the checkpoint, the officers are required to conduct a quick, cursory look into the car to check for signs of inebriation. The officer cannot look into the vehicle with the aim of searching for a specific person or evidence. They must only conduct a cursory look for the purposes of identifying inebriation.

Long Term Detention
For the purposes of a sobriety checkpoint, the police officers are prohibited from detaining a driver for a long period of time without any probable cause of the commission of a crime. Long-term detention to ferret out crime is against the minor intrusion feature of a sobriety checkpoint. It is abusive of the aims of a checkpoint and a violation of an individual's expectation of privacy.

Ulterior Motives
The purpose of a sobriety checkpoint is to conduct a minor check for drunk driving. A sobriety checkpoint cannot be used to detect other crimes. However, there is an exception to this rule. If upon conducting a cursory search, the officer sees, in plain view, the signs of the commission of a crime, they are required to act upon it. That occurrence is not an affront to the Fourth Amendment because the crime was being committed in plain view. However, the officer cannot conduct a sobriety checkpoint with the purpose of looking for the commission of other crimes.

Your DUI Attorney
Attorney James Robert Ferguson is an experienced DUI attorney with years of experience defending DUI cases. Driving Under the Influence is a serious crime. If you have been charged with DUI, you need an experienced attorney. Call us now for a consultation.

See related blog posts:
Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal in Mississippi
The Standard Field Sobriety Test

About the Author

James Ferguson

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. During college, I studied at East Tennessee State University, where I received a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice, which I then followed up with a Master's in Criminology from the University of Memphis. Before beginning my legal career, I worked as a Project Coordinator at the University of Memphis, where I assisted in training law enforcement officers in the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Training. The purpose of the project was to provide officers with the tools to deal with citizens in a state of mental crisis. I then went on to study law at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. During law school, I clerked with Victor W. Carmody, Jr., the lawyer who wrote the book on DUI law in Mississippi. I am currently licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi, and spend a majority of my time traveling the highways and biways of Mississippi defending those who have been charged with a DUI.


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