Are DUI Roadblocks Illegal in Maryland?

Are DUI Roadblocks Illegal in Maryland?

We have all seen them; you’re driving home from a party or going out for a late night snack and you get stopped at a police checkpoint.  The road is blocked off and while officially they indicate that they’re looking to make sure all passengers are wearing seatbelts, we all know that what they are really checking is the sobriety of the driver and passengers.

Statistically speaking, at any given checkpoint police might stop as many as 1,000 cars in an evening.  But according to multiple sets of statistics reported by states across America, less than 1% of those will end up being a drunk driver.  In fact, many studies seem to show that less than 1/3 of 1% of roadblocks produce DUI – related arrests.

We could have a great debate about whether these checkpoints are an appropriate, and beneficial, use of police resources, but presumably that is not why you are here; the real question that people often want to know is whether DUI roadblocks are legal in Maryland, or are they a violation of the Fourth Amendment and Maryland’s constitution?

DUI Checkpoints ARE legal in Maryland, but…

In Maryland, DUI roadblocks have been deemed legal by the Maryland Court of Appeals, in line with the US Supreme Court, but only if proper guidelines are followed, mainly having to do with the setting up and managing of the checkpoint.  If, on the other hand, these specific procedures are not followed, then a defendant arrested at at one of these check points will have a good chance of getting a “Not Guilty” verdict.

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The Importance of the 4th Amendment

The 4th Amendment of the United States constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by state actors.  The 4th Amendment has been adopted and incorporated into the Maryland State Constitution, as well, providing even greater protections to Maryland residents and visitors.

When a defendant alleges a 4th amendment violation, the judge must then determine whether the search and/or seizure were “reasonable.”  When applied to a DUI checkpoint in Maryland, the court will consider how much intrusion each individual stopped by police suffered on account of being subjected to the search.   Therefore, the judge would consider how many cars were pulled over and how many arrests were ultimately made.  In considering this factor, the judge is also considering Maryland’s interest in enforcing its DUI laws, and how well a DUI check point accomplishes this goal. In our example provided above, if the court found that arrests were only made on a 1/3 of 1% rate, the judge is much more likely to find that the seizure (arrest) of the defendant was unreasonable because of the very low success rate and high amount of driver inconvenienced.

Other things that a court may take into consideration when rendering their decision would be whether the checkpoint was carried out in accordance with typical police procedure, the delay there was between checking cars, and whether cars were picked out at random or in a routine.

Have you ever been subject to a DUI roadblock?  If you are currently facing traffic charges, especially one involving a potential DUI, make Rodriguez-Nanney, P.A., a law firm in Annapolis,  your first and only call at .  Don’t roll the dice when it comes to a criminal record.  Call now to arrange for an appointment with our legal team today.