Many local police departments in Palm Beach County will hold DUI checkpoints to educate the public and detect impaired drivers. Right before the checkpoint starts, the police department will typically issue a press release about the checkpoint disclosing the date, location and time of the checkpoint.
When vehicles enter the checkpoint, officers will select certain vehicles. The officers will then stop those vehicles and talk with the occupant. If the officers suspect drunk driving, then the officers will ask the driver to exit the vehicle and participate in field sobriety exercises.
After an arrest, the officers will ask the driver to submit to a breathalyzer test on the Intoxilyzer 8000 to determine the alcohol content of the driver’s breath.
Attorneys for DUI Checkpoints in Palm Beach County, FL
The attorneys at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. are experienced in fighting DUI charges, particularly in cases involving a DUI checkpoint. We are experienced in filing and litigating motions to suppress evidence gained during an unconstitutional checkpoint in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Don’t enter a plea in a DUI checkpoint case without talking with us. We can help you obtain the operational plan and guidelines created for your particular checkpoint. Any mistake in the plan or the implementation of the plan in the field can result in evidence in your case being suppressed and all of your charges being dismissed.
Motions to Suppress in DUI Checkpoint Cases in Florida
In many of these cases, the criminal defense attorney will file a motion to suppress all evidence discovered as a result of the stop. The court will then conduct a hearing on the motion to suppress. The court will hear testimony from DUI traffic enforcement officers who develop and oversee the pre-determined operational plan for the roadblock.
The issue in many of these cases is whether the operation plan provided for too much discretion to officers in the field when questioning motorists stopped during the roadblock. Although the State will maintain that the roadblock met the requirements of the Fourth Amendment, the trial courts in Palm Beach County will often find that the operational plan for the DUI checkpoint does not pass constitutional muster.
The defense will often argue that the operational plan was insufficient because it permitted the police to detain drivers based on other possible means which may be used for detecting impairment and that the guidelines are vague and procedures are undefined. If the guidelines are not sufficient then the operational plan permits the of?cers to detain citizens with relatively unbridled discretion.
The Florida cases governing the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints (also called DUI roadblocks) are State v. Jones, 483 So.2d 433 (Fla.1986), and Campbell v. State, 679 So.2d 1168 (Fla.1996). The Florida Supreme Court has found it to be “essential that a written set of uniform guidelines be issued before a roadblock can be utilized.” Jones, 483 So.2d at 438.
The officers in the field must be governed by a set of neutral criteria so as to minimize the discretion of the field officers. “Written guidelines should cover in detail the procedures which field officers are to follow at the roadblock.” Id.
The guidelines should set out procedures regarding the following:
- the selection of vehicles;
- detention techniques;
- duty assignments; and
- the disposition of vehicles.
In Ambrose v. State, 15 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 343d (Fla. 20th Cir. Ct. 2007), the case relied upon by the trial court in granting the motion to suppress, it was determined that a motion to suppress evidence should have been granted because the checkpoint plan of the local sheriff’s office did not pass constitutional muster. The Court determined that the guidelines were insufficient to minimize the discretion of law enforcement of?cers because the list of factors an of?cer could consider in order to determine a driver’s impairment allowed for too much discretion. Ambrose, 15 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 343d.
In Ambrose, the Court recognized, “The question becomes then what does the word ‘impairment’ mean to the of?cer doing the test? Do any one of the factors in C-G count, or does it take some combination of factors? There is no answer to that question [in the plan].”
Requirements for the Operational Plan in a Florida DUI Checkpoint
The prosecution must also show that the sobriety checkpoint plan is in compliance with the holdings of the Florida Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal. The checkpoint was conducted pursuant to a written, pre-determined plan which contained specific criteria to limit the conduct of the individual officers on the scene.
Requirements include the following:
- A press release must announce the location, time and place of the checkpoint.
- The plan must explain which cars are to be stopped (every car, every other car, every third car, etc).
- The plan must explain what an officer must do when the officer believes the driver is impaired.
- The plan should tell officers how to deal with drivers stopped in the checkpoint.
The plan will often require the officer to stop the vehicle as it enters the checkpoint, approach the the driver side of the vehicle, greet the driver, identified themselves, stated that the driver was at a safety and sobriety checkpoint, asked the driver to place the vehicle in park and asked to see their driver’s license.
If the officer determined it was necessary, they would then question the driver as to where the driver was coming from, whether they had been drinking and where they were going. The plan often includes a list of standard indications of DUI.
Deviations from the DUI Checkpoint Guidelines
At the motion to suppress hearing, the court will hear testimony about whether the guidelines were followed on the night of the checkpoint and whether any officer observed deviations from the guidelines.
In Schleter v. State, 15 Fla. Law Weekly Supp. 1062b (Fla. 15th Jud. Cir. Sept. 10, 20085) the Appellant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress the results of a search that took place after he was stopped at a police roadblock, arguing that the officers exercised unfettered discretion in determining how thorough an inspection to impose on each driver, rendering the plan unconstitutional. Schleter, 15 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 1062b.
The issue before the Court was whether the roadblock in question violated the Fourth Amendment by providing too much discretion to the officer making contact with the drivers. The court in Palm Beach County concluded that the plan used at the roadblock was constitutional because of the detailed written guidelines and the minimal discretion given to officers conducting the roadblock.
This article was last updated on Frida, October 14, 2016.