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Do Florida motorists have to stop at sobriety checkpoints?

Florida readers and visitors to our blog from other states who might be looking for a quick and definitive answer to the headline question posed above will likely be disappointed by the answer.

An accurate response to the query is ... maybe.

It should be noted at the outset that Florida does provide for the use of DUI checkpoints, with officials pointing to the federal Constitution as the primary source sanctioning the legality of the enforcement tool.

As indicated by the Governors Highway Safety Association (the nationwide group that represents state safety offices), Florida is among a sizable majority of states that deem sobriety checkpoints lawful.

Notwithstanding the cited legality of checkpoints, law enforcement agencies carrying them out must ensure that they follow guidelines set forth by the United States Supreme Court. Those guidelines centrally include these requirements:

  • Vehicles cannot be stopped randomly, but only pursuant to some predetermined formula
  • Motorists' and pedestrians' safety must be an exacting concern throughout a checkpoint's duration
  • Drivers must not be unreasonably detained
  • Clearly displayed lights and alerts must be visible

Additionally, the site chosen for a DUI checkpoint must be selected by policymakers, not police officers, and officers must be clearly identifiable as law enforcement agents.

Those factors -- namely, their presence or absence -- are the material determinants of whether a sobriety checkpoint is lawful or not, and whether a motorist is legally compelled to stop and submit to police questioning and, potentially, sobriety testing.

Questions or concerns regarding a Central Florida sobriety checkpoint can be directed to an experienced Orlando-based DUI defense attorney.

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