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Utah DUI Checkpoints Face Heavy Scrutiny in Court

In the wake of the Fourth of July festivities, some Utah residents may now be faced with charges of driving under the influence of alcohol. DUI checkpoints are one tactic used with increasing regularity by law enforcement officials to find drivers who are under the influence.

When requesting permission to implement a DUI checkpoint, police officers must get a judge to agree to a written plan. The plan typically states the reasons for establishing the checkpoint. At times, law enforcement officers fail to state a specific reason, in an apparent fishing expedition to arrest those stopped for any and all potential violations.

These DUI checkpoints with vague goals have come under increasing scrutiny recently, as courts question their constitutionality.

A judge in West Jordan 3rd District Court recently considered evidence submitted from a checkpoint with broad goals set out in its written plan. The plan indicated the checkpoint was meant to "inspect license plates, owner paperwork and conduct equipment checks," but also to "detect and apprehend individuals suspected of criminal and/ or traffic violations of Utah law or city ordinances."

The judge ordered evidence from the checkpoint suppressed. He wrote that such checkpoints must be "narrowly tailored," finding, "Multipurpose and general warrant-like intrusions are contrary to the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures." The judge added that, "A checkpoint ostensibly to promote one purpose, for example driver's license checks, is unlawful if an impermissible purpose of general law enforcement is the true and primary purpose."

For those who face drunk driving charges following a stop at a DUI checkpoint, consulting with a skilled drunk driving defense attorney can ensure all potential defenses are raised in court.

Source: City Weekly, "Are DUI Checkpoints Constitutional?" Stephen Dark, July 5, 2012.

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