DUI checkpoints: an often novel, unnerving experience for GA drivers

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2021 | Criminal Law

No Georgia motorist who has ever encountered flashing police lights on a roadway and been compelled to stop and undergo close interaction with law enforcers ever forgets the experience.

It’s jarring, right? And definitely transcending any reasonable person’s comfort zone.

And that is especially true for a driver who has imbibed a bit of alcohol – perhaps even only a modest amount – and is suddenly up close and personal with uncompromising state officials. Georgia police officers and state troopers can quickly turn an otherwise normal day into a starkly adverse experience.

Law enforcers employ a variety of tools when targeting behind-the-wheel offenses involving alcohol. They sometimes operate as saturation patrols on state roadways. They materially ratchet up the police presence in anti-DUI enforcement campaigns that recur periodically (especially during holiday periods).

And they operate so-called “DUI checkpoints” (sometimes termed also as sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks), which have a checkered history nationally.

What is Georgia’s take on DUI checkpoints? Are they legal?

It bears noting that DUI checkpoints are in fact not uniformly legal across the country. In fact, and as noted in one in-depth overview of sobriety roadblocks,” such enforcement tools are disallowed in 12 states on various grounds. One commonly held view is that they involve searches and seizures that are unlawful under the Constitution’s 4th Amendment.

Georgia is not one of those states. Rather, it aligns with a clear majority of states upholding the legality of roadblocks. Georgia law regards checkpoints as lawful under both state and federal laws, and routinely administers them across the state.

Lawful but not unchecked: DUI checkpoints come with limitations

Some roadblocks will be quickly endorsed as lawful by Georgia courts, while others won’t pass muster. Judges look to a collective listing of controlling factors that have emerged under both statutory and state laws. Close judicial scrutiny of a checkpoint will fall on determinants like these:

  • Method for flagging/detaining vehicles (random and arguably capricious or subject to some objective measurement, i.e, every fourth vehicle?)
  • Establishment (time/duration particulars announced in advance to the public, or does roadblock suddenly appear without warning?)
  • Presence of authority (unclear who is in charge, or is operation clearly under control of identified and senior-level officers?)
  • Interaction with drivers (reasonably brief and limited or unduly lengthy and intrusive?)
  • Search parameters in absence of probable cause (carefully limited or questionable under bedrock search-seizure guidelines?)

A Georgia driver might reasonably have questions or concerns about a DUI roadblock. A proven criminal defense team can provide candid guidance and results-oriented representation in response to any legal challenge.