Are DWI Checkpoints Illegal in Louisiana?

Law enforcement set up  sobriety checkpoints on Louisiana roadways mostly during particular holidays such as Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and others. The reason for this is that DWI accidents spike during these holidays. But generally temporary stop of vehicles constitutes a Fourth Amendment seizure under both U.S. and Louisiana Law.

There must be a justified reason for an officer to be able to infringe upon the rights of citizens.  There are times where individual rights can be overridden such as where drunk drivers are involved.  Drunk drivers are a threat to public safety according to the law.

Requirements for Checkpoints

There are specific requirements that police checkpoints must abide by to pass  Louisiana constitutional muster and not infringe on the liberty rights of each driver. They include:

  • The checkpoints should be publicly announced ahead of time in your local newspaper or town website
  • Police should only stop motorists on a neutral impartial basis
  • The location of the checkpoint must be reasonable
  • Drivers should only be detained for a short time to lessen the intrusive nature of the checkpoint
  • There should be signage alerting motorists to the presence of a checkpoint

Only the supervisory or other administrative personnel can  establish in written form, the location, time, and duration of the checkpoint and other regulations for operation of the checkpoint.  Officers manning or implementing the checkpoint are not allowed to do this.

What to do at a Sobriety Checkpoint

Some people panic at sobriety checkpoints because they do not know what exactly the police officers are looking for. Below are rules you should follow at a sobriety checkpoint:

  • Do not argue with the police officers and be respectful
  • Make sure your documentation including your license, registration, and proof of insurance and others  is readily available
  • You can say no to a field sobriety test because this refusal does not violate the state’s Implied consent law
  • Submit to a breathalyzer test if you are arrested to avoid getting your license suspended
  • Try not to say anything that can be used against you in a court

Law Enforcement Officers Make Mistakes

In numerous cases, law enforcement  officers do not comply with checkpoint requirements especially in parishes such as Orleans, Tangipahoa, and Baton Rouge.  This has lead to many DUI charges being dismissed or reduced when challenged in court. So get an experienced lawyer to review your case to see whether everything was done according to the law.

Traffic Stops vs. DUI Checkpoints

A police officer cannot conduct a traffic stop without “reasonable suspicion” that the driver has committed a crime.  For a DUI arrest, the officer must have witnessed evidence of reckless driving, driving extremely slow, speeding or other abnormal driving behavior for the traffic stop to be lawful.

Law enforcement officers do not need “reasonable suspicion” to stop motorists at a DUI checkpoint.  Every motorist that passes the sobriety checkpoint has to be stopped to prevent discrimination and violation of the Fourth Amendment rights.