People know it by different names. Sobriety checkpoint is a common descriptor. Soo too are the designations of DUI roadblock and mobile checkpoint.

However it’s termed, motorists in Missouri and elsewhere know it when they see it. And, for a select few, they feel the sharp sting of its outcome if they have been drinking and driving and become ensnared in its web.

Drunk driving checkpoints engender impassioned and even bitter debate surrounding fundamentally important issues like privacy rights and citizens’ constitutional expectations of being protected against unreasonable police searches and seizures.

That they do is eminently understandable. A bedrock American legal principle posits that a police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a criminal act has been committed or is ongoing before confronting an individual in a close and official capacity. That so-called “probable cause” ensures impartiality and fair play.

Roadblocks result in the detainment of drivers without probable cause, and seemingly turn Fourth Amendment protections on their head. The U.S. Supreme Court has given police departments across the country wide latitude to conduct them, though, ruling that they are an exception to usual restrictions against police conduct. The rationale for an expanded license to act is that general privacy rights must give way to the paramount public concerns posed by drunk drivers.

Not all states allow sobriety roadblocks within their borders. Missouri does, subject to a number of stated rules that operate as checks against unbridled police conduct. Questions or concerns regarding checkpoints within the state can be directed to seasoned St. Louis criminal defense attorneys.

We will take a look at some of the imposed checkpoint restrictions in our next blog post, noting specifically how a police failure to closely conform to requirements can yield a DUI case dismissal.