Are sobriety checkpoints allowed in Texas?
What are sobriety checkpoints and roadblocks?
A roadblock, or sobriety checkpoint, is set up when law enforcement agencies are given permission to stop each and every vehicle that passes through a specific area. They are required to follow department guidelines and often their primary point of contact is the Traffic Division Commander. Many times the police department will provide advanced notice and alert the media, who in turn will give the public notice of the upcoming checkpoint or roadblock. Often, there will be warning signs that are visible to drivers as they approach the roadblock or sobriety checkpoint, and the drivers could expect to see each and every single car be detained or searched as they came through. Below is a general list of what the law enforcement officers would be looking for as signs of intoxicaton:
- slurred speech
- odor of alcohol
- bloodshot or watery eyes
Do Texas sobriety checkpoints exist?
Sobriety checkpoints are not authorized in Texas. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, Texas sobriety checkpoints "are not permissible in Texas under the federal constitution only because Texas has no statutory scheme authorizing them." Eventhough they consistently reduce alcohol related accidents, the State of Texas has not authorized police officers to conduct roadblocks nor have they sanctioned their enforcements techniques. This makes sobriety checkpoints in Texas unconstitutional.
How do sobriety checkpoints and my 4th Amendment Rights go together?
Actually, sobriety checkpoints and roadblocks create serious concerns in regards to your 4th Amendment Rights, which specifically protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. Any time law enforcement stops your vehicle, requiring you to proceed to a checkpoint or a roadblock, you are being subjected to a seizure without any reasonable suspicion that you have created or been a part of an offense that occured. Generally speaking, seizures are illegal when there are not confirmed suspicions as they directly violate your 4th Amendment Rights. There are only three specific reasons that a court of law would give permission for what is considered "suspicionless seizures", in essense overriding the individual rights for the greater good of the public. They are as follows:
- the State's interest in preventing accidents caused by intoxicated individuals
- the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints in preventing DUI accidents
- the level of intrusion the sobriety checkpoint has on your individual right to privacy
While it is completely illegal to drink and drive in any State in the United States, it is also illegal for Texas sobriety checkpoints and roadblocks. Although they are not illegal in every State, sobriety checkpoints and roadblocks are always a source of contention with every American's 4th Amendment Rights. You would be wise to note, that any action taken to avoid or flee such a checkpoint would always result in law enforcement officers having reasonable doubt to legally detain you and your vehicle.
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