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Missouri police required to warn of sobriety checkpoints

With the holiday season in full swing, many people are making plans to celebrate with family and friends. And the combination of increased traffic and celebrations involving alcohol means increased DWI enforcement. We've already discussed some of Missouri law enforcement's plans to increase patrols, conduct checkpoints and aggressively crack down on impaired driving.

State police agencies have made their plans well known to the state's motorists. It may seem strange for police to announce their plans to conduct increased patrols and checkpoints but they are actually required to do so.

In a 1990 Supreme Court case out of Michigan, the nation's highest court held that such checkpoints are constitutional if certain conditions are met. The Michigan appeals court had ruled that checkpoints were altogether unconstitutional but the Supreme Court took a more moderate approach.

The Supreme Court ruled that checkpoints may be held if certain measures are taken to ensure that they don't violate the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizure - for example, publicizing the checkpoint. If officers fail to warn of a DUI checkpoint, they may be unable to use any of the evidence gathered there.

Some states, mostly in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, prohibit such checkpoints entirely. Michigan, for example, determined that checkpoints violated their state constitution after the Supreme Court ruling came back to state courts.

Law enforcement officials also must respect certain other constitutional rights when conducting DUI patrols or arrests. The Fifth Amendment, for example, requires officers to read arrestees their Miranda rights, advising them of their right not to make self-incriminating statements.

If you have been arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, seek help from a criminal defense attorney with experience in drunk driving matters. They can help you build a defense, present your case and work toward the best possible outcome.

Source: The New Haven Independent Sentinel, "Why Do Police Announce DUI Checkpoints?" Ethan Fry, Nov. 20, 2012

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