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How a DUI roadblock can be ruled infirm, result in case dismissal

We note in our immediately preceding blog post that police sobriety checkpoints are conducted "subject to a number of stated rules that operate against unbridled police conduct." Our September 4 entry stressed that many states, including Missouri, deem DUI roadblocks legal so long as they conform tightly to a number of stated restrictions.

A recently concluded criminal case from another state is quite instructive regarding checkpoint operation and the parameters of legality. We summarize it below for our readers in Missouri and elsewhere.

Its bottom line, rendered unequivocally by an appellate court: Police officers have no license whatever to skirt clearly stated roadblock-linked requirements. Their conduct can be deemed unconstitutional and result in the tossing of a DUI conviction against a defendant if they do.

The case at issue involved a roadblock that the appellate judges found problematic in several respects. For starters, the checkpoint confronted motorists virtually immediately after they exited from a tunnel.

Additionally (and of vital importance), officers failed to post any warning signs concerning the stop at any point before the tunnel's entrance. That omission "undoubtedly prevented motorists from having adequate notice of the impending checkpoint," stated the appellate ruling.

The court stressed that the cited problems concerning lack of sufficient notice and warning collectively pushed the roadblock beyond the bounds of constitutionality. The court further underscored its concern that the post-exit placement of the checkpoint created limited space that brought about an "increased risk of harm" for both motorists and officers.

The defendant's legal protections against unreasonable search and seizure were violated by the roadblock, concluded the court. His DUI conviction was tossed.

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