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Why are some saying that you don't have to talk at DUI checkpoints?

Anyone who has had to stop at a drunk-driving checkpoint probably remembers the experience vividly. That's probably because it was so intimidating and so disorienting.

These checkpoints are almost always held during nighttime hours and may seem to materialize out of nowhere, complete with flashing police lights, lines of slowed traffic moving through parking cones and the watchful eyes of law enforcement officials busy looking for signs of driving under the influence among motorists.

Despite the intimidation and disorientation created by these DUI checkpoints, they are legal, and currently conducted in all but 12 states.

Indeed, back in 1990, the Supreme Court of the United States held that random sobriety checkpoints did not violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures in Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz.

Here in Florida, DUI checkpoints are announced in advance and subject to certain rules mandated by the courts. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies conducting them typically adopt a neutral policy of determining which motorists to stop, perhaps checking every vehicle, every third vehicle or random groups of ten vehicles at a time.

Despite all of this, there is now a growing chorus of legal experts in the Sunshine State claiming that DUI checkpoints are unconstitutional. Specifically, they argue that all motorists are required to do when stopped is simply provide their license, registration and insurance card, as well as a note indicating that they will not provide their consent to a search and would like to speak with an attorney.

This no-talk strategy, however, is being met with considerable skepticism by both law enforcement officials and other legal experts, with the latter arguing that not only has SCOTUS deemed these DUI checkpoints to be constitutional, but that states typically treat driving as a privilege, such that drivers forfeit certain rights.

As such, these experts believe that drivers do indeed have an obligation to interact with law enforcement officials at sobriety checkpoints and won't see their rights violated if they are not allowed to pass through if they elect not to say anything.

It will be fascinating to see whether this issue ends up before our state courts and whether this no-talk strategy at DUI checkpoints will be adopted by more motorists.

Stay tuned for developments ...

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