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Alabama Authorities Held 2,500 DUI Roadblocks in 2010

Posted by Steven Eversole | Aug 10, 2011 | 0 Comments

A recent article out of Chattanooga suggests that Georgia law enforcement officers have conducted more than 80,000 roadblocks over the last four years, a large number of operations that use a lot of police manpower.

DUI checkpoints have been debated for years because, as defense attorneys have attempted to show, they violate a person's Fourth Amendment right to unreasonable search and seizure. Just as a police officer can't simply knock on your door and burst in looking for evidence of a crime without probable cause, Birmingham DUI Attorneys would argue that pulling a vehicle over without probable cause and beginning a DUI investigation violates a driver's rights. These and other tactics law enforcement officers use in the pursuit of DUI Arrests in Birmingham can all be challenged in court.

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In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz ruled that sobriety checkpoints are necessary to ensure public safety and they outweigh the argument that they violate the Fourth Amendment.

According to the article, federal funding from the Alcohol-Impaired Driving Countermeasure Incentive Grant requires states to use half the money on sobriety checkpoints or saturation patrols. According to the article, Georgia has received $24.6 million from the grant over the last 10 years, while Tennessee has received $16.3 million. Numbers for Alabama weren't cited.

The Alabama Highway Patrol more than triple the number of roadblocks it has held over the last five years, holding 2,487 in 2010. Law enforcement says roadblocks are an important tool in cutting down on fatal accidents. But driver's rights advocates have said the roadblocks are a violation.

“Even from a common-sense standpoint, it is a very high number,” said Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association. “With that many roadblocks, law enforcement is casting a very wide net. They are generating a reason to find probable cause.”

Law enforcement is very protective of DUI checkpoints and the money they get to perform them. They tout them as life-saving endeavors, but they can also be seen as a large use of resources for a potentially small output of arrests.

Alabama DUI Lawyer Blog reported in June about how lawmakers — at the request of law enforcement — urged Apple to stop selling smart phone applications that showed people where DUI checkpoints were planned. Succumbing to the pressure for fear of bad publicity, Apple re-wrote its AppStore guidelines, as did the makers of Blackberry phones.

Even if arrested at a DUI checkpoint, there are defenses to a DUI charge. They include everything from challenging the initial stop (which can still be done in checkpoint cases), the field sobriety tests, if given and the breath test, if the driver submits one.

Initial stop: An officer must have probable cause for making a stop in Alabama. This can be anything from a driver with a broken tail light to swerving, running stop signs or other common traffic violations. In order words, if the officer saw a person drinking at a bar and saw them driving minutes later, but they were driving within the law, the officer can't pull them over. Checkpoints have their own unique requirements.

Field sobriety tests: These include standing on one leg balanced, following an object from side to side and walking heel to heel. Failure is based on the officer's observations, yet the officer's training, weather conditions and dashcam video are all areas that can be explored in defense of the charge.

Breath testing: Breathalyzers are inherently faulty because they can't measure a person's blood-alcohol level, only estimate it. Yet, officers use these devices to prove a person is drunk driving. They have been shown to have manufacturing defects and officers have improperly calibrated them, leading to tossed-out cases.


More Blog Entries:

Hundreds Arrested For DUI During Fourth of July Weekend: July 11, 2011
Apple Will No Longer Accept Birmingham DUI Checkpoint Apps: June 23, 2011
Additional Resources:

Georgia held 80,000 roadblocks in past 4 years, by Marian Martin, Chattanooga Times Free Press

About the Author

Steven Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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