What Are Sobriety Checkpoints and What Is Their History?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated that sobriety checkpoints reduced car accident deaths by almost 20%. That statistic is all the more notable considering that, in 2020, drunk drivers had been estimated to cause 30% of car fatalities. And as high as 30% of car fatalities is, it is still far below what it was before DUI penalties, ignition interlock laws, and transport service providers like Uber who can be called upon quickly to act as designated drivers.

Given that, you may be wondering what will happen if you are ever stopped at a sobriety checkpoint. This blog will give you a historical summary of sobriety checkpoints and explain what they are. If you have been stopped and charged with a crime at a sobriety checkpoint, do not hesitate to contact a Hartford County DUI attorney right away.

What Is the History of Sobriety Checkpoints?

Sobriety checkpoints were first used in Scandinavia during the 1930s. They became popular in the United States since the 1980s. The goal was to prevent the public from driving after consuming alcohol, and thereby make sure that there were no intoxicated drivers on public roadways causing accidents and deaths related to their alcohol consumption.

Sobriety checkpoints refer to a specific location, usually publicized in advance, where police officers will be stopping drivers to make sure they are not driving under the influence. You should be able to find advance notice of these checkpoints on local news programs and traffic apps.

Some people assume that checkpoints are illegal because of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, but this is not totally true. For Connecticut, its Appellate Court decided in 1996 that sobriety checkpoints do not violate the Fourth Amendment, so long as checkpoints meet certain standards. In the years since that ruling, 38 other states as well as the District of Columbia have all approved sobriety checkpoints.

What Standards Are Required for These Checkpoints?

Connecticut jurisprudence has set up several regulations for sobriety checkpoints. A valid checkpoint needs to be located in a well-traveled area that has a history of driving violations and accidents. The sobriety checkpoint must not be hidden, but made clearly visible with signage and even lights. Finally, officers cannot set up a sobriety checkpoint without first getting permission from a senior officer.

For safety reasons, a legally viable checkpoint must not only have officers assigned to it, but also police supervisors. The officers are required to use truly random selection method, such as stopping every single car or every fifth car. Sobriety checkpoints are never an excuse for discrimination.

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