Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal in Illinois?

The holiday season brings snow, ice, and other wintry conditions to drivers in Illinois, but this time of year is notable for another reason: Police in Cook, Lake, DuPage, McHenry, and surrounding counties set up more sobriety checkpoints to catch motorists who violate state law by driving under the influence of alcohol. Law enforcement officers know that it is common for drivers to drink more than usual as they celebrate the holidays. These DUI roadblocks have drawn fire in the past over their potential to violate citizens’ privacy and constitutional rights, but they are legal in Illinois. Still, sobriety checkpoints are only lawful under designated circumstances, so you should consult with an experienced DUI lawyer if you are facing charges.

Purpose of Sobriety Checkpoints

There are two main reasons police conduct DUI checkpoints:

  • To arrest drunk drivers and get them off the roads, so they do not put the public safety at risk; and,
  • To let all drivers know that officers are in the vicinity, as an incentive to prevent motorists from getting behind the wheel when they have had too much to drink.

When police set up a sobriety roadblock, they do not need probable cause or a reasonable suspicion of drunk driving to stop you. All motorists that pass through may be subject to a short detainment. If an officer does suspect that you are impaired or have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of .08%, then he or she may conduct a more thorough investigation.

Sobriety Checkpoints are Legal in Illinois

There have been challenges to checkpoints made on constitutional grounds, based upon the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unlawful search and seizure. A sobriety checkpoint is essentially a warrantless search without probable cause. However, a US Supreme Court decision determined that the risks drunk drivers pose to the public outweigh any civil rights violations. Because the case is the law of the land, the checkpoints around Northern Illinois, as well as in Indiana and Wisconsin, are also legal.

There are certain requirements for police when they set up sobriety roadblocks, such as:

  • The DUI checkpoint cannot be set up in such a way that it discriminates against certain drivers;
  • Systematic Criteria: Officers must pull over every vehicle, every other vehicle, or every third vehicle, or whatever.
  • There must be advance notice to the public, such as publishing in a newspaper or online;
  • Police must post signs warning that a sobriety checkpoint is ahead;
  • Drivers must have access to turn around to avoid a checkpoint; and,
  • Police cannot detain a motorist who did turn around, unless there is another reason to stop the driver.

Consult with an Illinois DUI Defense Attorney About the Legality of Sobriety Checkpoints

Sobriety checkpoints can be an effective deterrent against drunk driving, but officials must still comply with constitutional requirements to avoid violating your civil rights. If you have been charged with DUI after being pulled over at a roadblock, please contact our DUI defense lawyers at Glasgow & Olsson right away. You have options to defend against drunk driving charges, but you will need an experienced attorney on your side. You can set up a consultation by calling 847-577-8700 or requesting an appointment via our website.

(image courtesy of Luke Van Zyl)

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