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State court decisions on the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints

Sobriety checkpoints are a valuable component of a comprehensive enforcement strategy aimed at deterring alcohol-impaired driving. Research shows that the key to effective deterrence is the public's perception of the likelihood of being caught in violation of the law. The public has been shown repeatedly to identify checkpoint activity with increased risk of apprehension. This PDF table lists the citations to common law and statutes relevant to the constitutional and other issues raised by sobriety checkpoints, organized by state.

State Decision
Alabama Upheld under federal Constitution. Driving into private driveway to avoid a checkpoint justified a stop. Smith v. State, 515 So. 2d 149 (Ala. Cr. App. 1987). See also Cains v. State, 555 So. 2d 290 (Ala. Cr. App. 1989), Brunson v. State, 580 So.2d 62 (Ala. Cr. App. 1991), and McInnish v. State, 584 So.2d 95 (Ala. Cr. App. 1991). General checkpoint to deter "trouble" impermissible under Hagood v. Town of Town Creek, 628 So.2d 1057 (Ala. Cr. App. 1993).
Alaska No state authority.
Arizona Upheld under federal Constitution.State v. Superior Court, 143 Ariz. 45, 691 P.2d 1073)(1984). In State v. Tykwinski, 824 P.2d 761 (Ariz. App. 1991), defendants tried to suppress evidence obtained at a checkpoint. Because the checkpoint itself was legal, the evidence was admitted.
Arkansas Upheld under state and federal Constitution.Brouhard v. Lee, 125 F.3d 656 (8th Cir. 1997), Mullinax v. State, 938 S.W.2d 801 (Ark. 1997). See also Coffman v. State, 26 Ark. App. 45, 759 S.W.2d 573 (1988); Tims v. State, 26 Ark.App. 102, 760 S.W.2d 78(1988); Camp v. State, 26 Ark.App. 299, 764 S.W.2d 463 (1989).
California Upheld under state and federal Constitution.Ingersoll v. Palmer, 743 P.2d 1299 (Cal. 1987), People v. In Re Richar T., 750 P.2d 297 (Calif. 1988) (No. 88-318), cert. den., 488 U.S. 986 (1988), 109 S. Ct. 542, 102 L.Ed.2d 572. In People v. Banks, the California Supreme Court held that advance publicity is not necessary for a checkpoint to be valid. 6 Cal.4th 926, 863 P.2d 769, 25 Cal.Rptr.2d 524 (1993).
Colorado Upheld under state and federal Constitution.People v. Rister, 803 P.2d 483 (Col. 1990), Orr v. People, 803 P.2d 509 (Col. 1990). The Rister court held that the Colorado Constitution should be interpreted as coextensive with the federal constitution with regard to checkpoints.
Connecticut Upheld under state Constitution.State v. Mikolinski, 775 A.2d 274 (Conn. 2001).
Delaware Upheld under state law and federal Constitution.Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979). A trial court has held that a legally executed U-turn in advance of a checkpoint did not justify a stop. Howard v. Voshell, 621 A.2d 804 (Del. Super. 1992).
District of Columbia Upheld under federal Constitution.Galberth v. U.S., 590 A.2d 990 (D.C. App. 1991); U.S. v. McFayden, 865 F.2d 1306 (D.C. Cir. 1989) upheld license and registration checks. The McFayden court found that when the principal purpose of a checkpoint is to regulate traffic using license and registration checks, the fact that the effort has benefits with regard to other offenses does not make an otherwise legal checkpoint invalid. Duncan v. U.S., 629 A.2d 1 (D.C. App. 1993) follows McFayden.
Florida Upheld under federal Constitution.State v. Jones, 483 So. 2d 433 (1986). Campbell v. State, 679 So.2d 1168 (Fla. 1996) found a checkpoint deficient under Jones because the written guidelines were insufficient, especially with regard to the method for choosing which vehicle(s) to stop. A delay of less than five minutes before a driver was asked to exit the vehicle was found to be permissible. Cahill v. State, 595 So.2d 258 (Fla. App. 4 Dist. 1992).
Georgia Upheld under state and federal Constitution.State v. Golden, 318 S.E.2d 693 (Ga. App. 1984); Evans v. State, 380 S.E.2d 332 (Ga. App. 1989); Seagraves v. State, 442 S.E.2d 312 (Ga. App. 1994); Hooten v. State, 442 S.E.2d 836 (Ga. App. 1994); Burns v. State, 454 S.E.2d 152 (Ga. App. 1995); Brent v. State, 510 S.E.2d 14 (Ga. 1998). Abnormal or unusual actions taken to avoid a roadblock may give an officer a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity even when the evasive action is not illegal; however, completely normal driving, even if it incidentally evades the roadblock, does not justify a Terry-type stop. Taylor v. State, 249 Ga. App. 733 (May 2001). See also, Castillo v. State, 502 S.E.2d 261 (Ga. App. 1998); LaFontaine v. State, 497 S.E.2d 367 (Ga. 1998); and Payne v. State, 502 S.E.2d 526 (Ga. App. 1998).
Hawaii Authorized by statute. HAW. REV. Stat. 286-162.5 and 286-162.6. Also upheld under an unpublished opinion, Hawaii v. Nagamine (No. B-91009) (Hawaii 1985). Checkpoint standards are laid out in internal police regulation, Notice 86-10 which was discussed in State v. Aguinaldo, 782 P.2d 1225 (Hawaii 1989) and State v. Fedak, 825 P.2d 1068 (Hawaii App. 1992).
Idaho Illegal under state law.State v. Henderson, 756 P.2d 1057 (Idaho 1988), held legislative authority was required for a checkpoint. There is no such authority absent particularized suspicion in the Idaho statute that describes the circumstances under which police may put up a roadblock. State v. Medley, 898 P.2d. 1093 (Idaho 1995) held a fish and game checkpoint invalid under the U.S. Constitution. The Medley Court noted that it was not addressing the issue of whether checkpoints violate the Idaho Constitution.
Illinois Upheld under federal Constitution.People v. Bartley, 486 N.E.2d 880 (Ill. 1985), cert. den. 475 U.S. 1068 (1986); checkpoints to enforce city sticker laws upheld if proper procedures are followed. People v. Taylor, 630 N.E.2d 1331 (Ill. App. 3 Dist. 1994).
Indiana Upheld under state Constitution.Indiana v. Gerschoffer, Supreme Court of Indiana, No. 71S05-0102-CR-106, March 5, 2002. Previously, checkpoints had been conducted in Indiana under Garcia, which held checkpoints legal under the federal constitution. State v. Garcia, 500 N.E.2d 158 (Ind. 1986), cert. den. 481 U.S. 1014 (1987); Snyder v. State, 538 N.E.2d 961 (Ind. App. 4 Dist. 1989). In the Snyder case, the court held that avoiding a checkpoint was sufficient cause to conduct a stop. One court in Indiana has that the state failed to prove that the checkpoint sufficiently advanced the state's interest in conducting it. Covert v. State, 612 N.E.2d 592 (Ind. App. 5 Dist. 1993). A drug interdiction checkpoint was held a violation of the U.S. Constitution in Indianapolis v. Edmond, 121 S.Ct. 447 (2000).
Iowa Not permitted because statute authorizing roadblocks controls and does not authorize sobriety checkpoints. 321K.1. DUI arrests may be made at roadblocks authorized by statute. State v. Day, 528 N.W.2d 100 (Iowa 1995). Absent statutory impediments, Iowa courts have upheld the constitutionality of checkpoints. State v. Loyd, 530 N.W. 2d 708); State v. Riley, 377 N.W.2d 242 (Iowa App. 1985). Se also State v. Hillesheim, 291 N.W.2d. 314 (Iowa 1980). State v. Heminover, 2000 WL 564049 (Iowa App.), held avoidance does not justify stop. It also found the roadblock did not comply with guidelines.
Kansas Upheld under both state law and federal Constitution.State v. Deskins, 673 P. 2d 1174 (Kansas 1983). Davis v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, 843 P.2d 260 (Kan. 1992), held that legislative authorization is not necessary for checkpoints. See also State v. Baker, 850 P.2d 885 (Kan. 1993) and State v. Campbell, 875 P.2d 1010 (Kan. App. 1994).
Kentucky Upheld under federal Constitution.Kinslow v. Commonwealth, 660 S.W.2d. 677 (Ky. 1984), cert. den. 465 U.W. 1105 (1984). Avoiding a checkpoint is sufficient to justify a stop. Steinbeck v. Commonwealth, 862 S.W.2d 912 (Ky. App. 1993).
Louisiana Upheld under state Constitution.State v. Jackson, 764 So.2d 64 (La. 2000), overruling State v. Church, 538 So.2d 993 (La. 1989). See also State v. Parms, 523 So.2d 677 (La. 1988).
Maine Upheld under federal Constitution.State v. Leighton, 551 A.2d 116 (Me. 1988); State v. McMahon, 557 A.2d 1324 (Me. 1989); State v. Babcock, 559 A.2d 337 (Me. 1989). Avoiding a checkpoint is grounds for an investigative stop. State v. D'Angelo, 605 A.2d 68 (Me. 1992).
Maryland Upheld under state and federal Constitution.Little v. State, 479 A.2d 903 (Md. 1984).
Massachusetts Upheld under state and federal Constitution.Commonwealth v. Shields, 521 N.E.2d 987 (Mass. 1988); Commonwealth v. Cameron, 545 N.E.2d 619 (Mass. App. Ct. 1989). In Commonwealth v. Anderson, 547 N.E.2d 1134 (Mass. 1989), the court invalidated a checkpoint for failure to follow guidelines. However, checkpoints to find contraband drugs are illegal. Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, 722 N.E.2d 429 (Mass. 2000).
Michigan Illegal under state Constitution.Sitz v. Mich. Dept. of State Police, 506 N.W.2d 209 (Mich. 1993). This case was remanded to the Michigan Supreme Court for a decision with regard to the Michigan constitution, Const. 1963, Art. 1, Sec. 11, after the U.S. Supreme Court held in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), that sobriety checkpoints do not offend the U.S. Constitution.
Minnesota Illegal under state Constitution.Ascher v. Comm. of Public Safety, 519 N.W.2d 183 (Minn. 1994); Gray v. Comm. of Public Safety, 519 N.W.2d 187 (Minn. 1994). The courts require evidence of an advance in arrest rates before approving checkpoints under the state constitution.
Mississippi Upheld under federal Constitution.Miller v. State, 373 So.2d 1004 (Miss. 1979).
Missouri Upheld under state and federal Constitution.State v. Welch, 755 S.W.2d 624 (Mo. App. 1988); State v. Payne, 759 S.W.2d 252 (Mo. App. 1988); State v. Damask, 936 S.W.2d 565 (Mo. 1996); State v. Heyer, 692 S.W.2d 401 (Mo. App. 1998). State v. Canton, 775 S.W.2d 352 (Mo. App. 1989), requires written procedures for checkpoints. Checkpoint avoidance justifies investigatory stop. Oughton v. Director of Revenue, 916 S.W.2d 462 (Mo. App. E.D. 1996). Police may use a deceptive "drug checkpoint" to generate suspicious conduct that would amount to "individualized suspicion" thereby allowing for a Terry-type stop by removing it from the purview of Indianapolis v. Edmond (supra). Missouri v. Mack, 2002 Lexis 12 (Mo. 2002).
Montana Authorized by statute. Checkpoints have been conducted under the authority of a statute permitting safety spot checks. MONT. CODE ANN. 46-5-501 et seq. This section does not specifically refer to sobriety checkpoints.
Nebraska Upheld under state law.State v. McCleery, 560 N.W.2d 789 (Neb. 1997). Checkpoint avoidance does not justify an investigatory stop.
Nevada Authorized by statute. NEV. REV. STAT. 484.359 and 484.3591.
New Hampshire Judicially approved checkpoints authorized by statute. N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. 265:1-a. Opinion of the Justices, 509 A.2d 744 N.H. 1986). State v. Koppel, 499 A2d. 977 (N.H. 1985) held checkpoints not permitted under state Constitution unless authorized by a judge. To justify suspicionless stops, the state must show that its objective cannot be met using less intrusive means. The court found no evidence that checkpoints are greater deterrents than publicized roving patrols.
New Jersey Upheld under state and federal Constitution.State v. Mazurek, 567 A.2d 277 (N.J. Super. A.D. 1989); State v. DeCamera, 568 A.2d 86 (N.J. Super. A.D. 1989); State v. Moskal, 586 A.2d 845 (N.J. Super. A.D. 1991); State v. Kirk, 493 A.2d 1271 (N.J. Super. A.D. 1985). State v. Barcia, 549 A.2d 491 (N.J. Super. L. 1988), held a checkpoint can violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution if it impedes interstate commerce. A DUI arrest may result from a vehicle inspection check under State v. Kadelak, 655 A.2d 461 (N.J. Super. A.D. 1995).
New Mexico Upheld under state and federal Constitution.City of Las Cruces v. Betancourt, 735 P.2d 1161 (N.M. App. 1987); State v. Bates, 902 P.2d 1060 (N.M. App. 1995); State v. Madalena, 908 P.2d 756 (N.M. App. 1995).
New York Upheld under federal Constitution.People v. Scott, 473 N.E.2d 1 (N.Y. 1984). Turning into a parking lot to evade a checkpoint is cause for an investigatory stop. People v. Chaffee, 590 N.Y.S.2d 625 (A.D. 4 Dist. 1992); but turning off a highway before reaching a checkpoint on to another road is not cause for a stop. People v. Rocket, 594 N.Y.S.2d 568 (Just. Ct. 1992). New York does not require written guidelines for a checkpoint. People v. Collura, 610 N.Y.S.2d (N.Y. CityCrim. Ct. 1994).
North Carolina Authorized by statute. N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-16.3A. State v. Barnes, 472 S.E.2d 784 (N.C. App. 1996). State v. Johnson, 446 S.E.2d 135 (N.C. App. 1994) held entering a parking lot to avoid a checkpoint justified a stop. In State v. Foremen, 527 S.E.2d 921 (N.C. 2000), the Court held that is it reasonable and permissible for an officer to monitor a checkpoint's entrance for vehicles whose drivers may be attempting to avoid the checkpoint, and an officer, in conjunction with the totality of the circumstances or the checkpoint plan, may pursue and stop a vehicle which has turned away from a checkpoint within its perimeters for reasonable inquiry to determine why the vehicle turned away.
North Dakota Upheld under state and federal Constitution.City of Bismark v. Uhden, 513 N.W.2d 373 (N.D. 1994). See also State v. Wetzel, 456 N.W.2d 115 (N.D. 1990) which upholds safety inspection checkpoints and State v. Everson, 474 N.W.2d 695 (N.D. 1991) that upholds checkpoints to investigate drug trafficking.
Ohio Upheld under state and federal Constitution.State v. Bauer, 651 N.E. 2d 46 (Ohio App. 10 Dist. 1994) See also State v. Goines, 474 N.E.2d 1219 (Ohio App. 1984).
Oklahoma Upheld under state and federal Constitution.Geopfert v. State Ex Re. DPS, 884 P.2d 1218 (Okla. App. 1994).
Oregon Illegal under state Constitution.State v. Boyanovsky 743 P.2d 711 (Or. 1987); Nelson v. Lane Co., 743 P.2d 692 (Or. 1987), required legislative approval of checkpoints.
Pennsylvania Upheld under state and federal Constitution.Commonwealth v. Yastrop, 768 A.2d 318 (Pa. 2001); Commonwealth v. Blouse, 611 A.2d 1177 (Pa. 1992); Commonwealth v. Tarbert, 535 A.2d 1035 (Pa. 1987); Commonwealth v. Fioretti, 538 A.2d 570 (Pa. Super. 1988); Commonwealth v. Myrtetus, 580 A.2d 42 (Pa. Super. 1990). Under Commonwealth v. Pacek, 691 A.2d 466 (Pa. Super. 1997), a checkpoint does not have to provide a legal means of avoidance. Checkpoint must be located in area where DUI is prevalent. Commonwealth v. Blee, 695 A.2d 802 (Pa. Super. 1997). Legal U-turn in advance of checkpoint does not justify a stop. Commonwealth v. Scavello, 703 A.2d 36 (PA. Super. 1997). A checkpoint conducted at a toll booth was held illegal because it was not conducted in accordance with state Supreme Court guidelines. Commonwealth v. Yashinski, 723 A.2d 104 (Pa. Super. 1988).
Rhode Island Illegal under state Constitution.Primental v. Rhode Island, 561 A.2d 1348 (R.I. 1989).
South Carolina No state authority. Checkpoints are conducted.
South Dakota Upheld under state and federal Constitution. In State v. Claussen, 522 N.W.2d 196 (S.C. 1994), checkpoint was upheld to find underage drinkers where roadblock was conducted close to a party. Avoidance of checkpoint justifies a stop. State v. Thill, 474 N.W.2d 86 (S.D. 1991).
Tennessee Upheld under state and federal Constitution.State v. Downey, 945 S.W.2d 102 (Tenn. 1997) held that properly conducted sobriety checkpoints do not violate the state constitution, but that the checkpoint at issue was not properly conducted because officer discretion was not limited. See also State v. Manuel, 1988 WL 123988 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1988) Checkpoint avoidance may justify investigatory stop but a legal U-turn does not necessarily justify a stop. State v. Binion, 900 S.W. 2d 702 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1994). Combining DWI and drug interdiction checkpoints may be illegal under both the state and federal Constitution. U.S. v. Huguenin, 154 F.3d 547 (6th Cir. 1998) and State v. Walker, 1998 WL 608220, (Tenn. Crim. App. 1998).
Texas Illegal under Texas' interpretation of federal Constitution.State v. Holt, 887 S.W. 2d 16 (Tex. Cr. App. 1994) Because the checkpoint the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), was legislatively authorized, the Texas court held that absent such authorization a checkpoint is illegal under the U.S. Constitution. There is no specific language in Sitz requiring such an interpretation.
Utah Authorized by statute. UTAH CODE ANN. 77-23-101 et seq. This statute requires approval of a magistrate. See State v. Sims, 808 P.2d 141 (Utah App. 1991). Avoidance of a checkpoint does not justify a stop. State v. Talbot, 792 P.2d. 489 (Utah App. 1990). For a case holding that a checkpoint can provide too much discretion to police, see State v. DeBooy, 996 P.2d 546 (Utah 2000).
Vermont Upheld under state and federal Constitution.State v. Martin, 496 A.2d 442 (Vt. 1985) and State v. Record, 548 A.2d 422 (Vt. 1988).
Virginia Upheld under state and federal Constitution.Lowe v. Commonwealth, 337 S.E.2d 273 (Va. 1985), cert. den., 475 U.S. 1084 (1986). See also, Crandol v. City of Newport News, 386 S.E.2d 113 (Va. 1989); Simmons v. Commonwealth, 380 S.E.2d 656 (Va. 1989); Hall v. Commonwealth, 406 S.E.2d 674 (Va. App. 1991); Thomas v. Commonwealth, 473 S.E.2d 87 (Va. App. 1996). Deviation in checkpoint location, as stated in plan, will not invalidate the checkpoint. Sheppard v. Commonwealth, 489 S.E.2d 714 (Va. App. 1997). Legal driving maneuvers that reverse a driver's course toward a checkpoint do not justify a stop, Bass v. Commonwealth, 525 S.E.2d 921 (Va. 2000). See also, Murphy v. Commonwealth, 384 S.E. 2d 125 (Va. App. 1989). Certain avoidance maneuvers do justify a stop, Commonwealth v. Eaves, 408 S.E. 2d 925 (Va. App. 1991); Stroud v. Commonwealth, 370 S.E. 2d 721 (Va. App. 1988); Brown v. Commonwealth, 440 S.E, 2d 619 (Va. App. 1994).
Washington Illegal under state Constitution.City of Seattle v. Mesiani, 755 P.2d 775 (Wa. 1988), required legislative authority for checkpoints.
West Virginia Upheld under state and federal Constitution.Carte v. Cline, 460 S.E.2d 48 (W.Va. 1995). A preconceived plan using nondiscriminatory procedures must be used, State v. Frisby, 245 S.E.2d 622 (W.Va. 1978) (cert. den. 439 U.S. 1127 1979). See also, State v. Davis, 464 S.E.2d 598 (W.Va. 1975)
Wisconsin Prohibited by statute. WIS. STAT. ANN. 349.02(2)(a).
Wyoming Prohibited by interpretation of the roadblock statute. WYO. STAT. ANN. 7-17-101 et seq.

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