The holiday season is upon us and many of us will be celebrating the holidays with friends and family. Whether attending an office party, a family gathering, a dinner with friends or simply shopping for gifts, most of us will be out and about at some point during the holiday season. In the State of Maryland and specifically, Frederick, Maryland, the Frederick Police Department and the Frederick County Highway Safety Task Force will also be out and about looking for drunk drivers and conducting DUI DWI Checkpoints to detect, deter and prevent drunk driving and underage drinking. They have already begun their “saturation patrol.” See http://www.cityoffrederick.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1178 and https://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/news/display.htm?StoryID=143771. So, I felt it would be appropriate to provide some information about these checkpoints.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT DUI CHECKPOINTS:
1) Can a police officer stop my vehicle for no reason?
No. While an officer does not need probable cause/reasonable suspicion to approach a stopped or parked vehicle, generally, any stop or seizure of your vehicle is unreasonable under the Constitution unless an officer has specific and “articulable” facts that you are violating the law. At a DUI checkpoint, the officer actively stops or "seizes" your vehicle. The Supreme Court has held that while a checkpoint or roadblock is a “seizure” within the meaning of the Constitution, it is an acceptable and legal tool for law enforcement to use. The need and effectiveness of the stop in protecting the public outweigh the “minimal intrusion” caused to the driver. Nonetheless, officers MUST conduct checkpoints using very specific guidelines and procedures and follow all local ordinances and administrative rules. They must ensure such a minimal intrusion to the driver with a very brief exchange, but also safeguard the public from random, baseless searches and seizures.
2) Is a checkpoint or roadblock entrapment?
No. Entrapment is a recognized defense in the State of Maryland but in order to raise this defense, the person charged must show specific facts that the officer in some way induced, persuaded or compelled the driver to commit a crime. This is clearly not the case when local law enforcement carry out DUI checkpoints.
3) Can a driver evade, avoid or turn around at a checkpoint?
Yes. If you stop at the checkpoint, choose to comply and the officer discovers no reason to continue the stop, they must let you pass through. If the officer smells an odor of alcohol on your breath or your person and has reason to believe you are violating the law, they can continue to detain you. If you turn off the road or turn around before the stop, this alone does not give the officer reason or probable cause to stop your vehicle. Law enforcement does not block the side streets or force contact with the driver at any checkpoint. They might stop a driver for other reasons but not for simply avoiding the checkpoint.
Checkpoints and roadblocks are important tools that police officers use often during the holidays to prevent drunk driving and save lives. If you have not been stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Maryland, you should still be aware of your rights. If you have been stopped, arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Impaired in Frederick, Maryland, as a result of a DUI Checkpoint or other traffic stop, my office can help and advise you through this difficult time. This Blog is not intended to create any attorney-client relationship or render any legal advice to those who are not clients of our office. It is for informational purposes only.
Our office knows the “guidelines” and rules that the State must follow in order to conduct a legal, non-random and effective DUI Checkpoint. If you have questions about your DUI arrest or other traffic citation, please contact The Law Office of John R. Discavage, PA, for a free consultation to see how we can help you with your case.
Thank you to all our friends, clients and family for your support and referrals throughout the year. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday.