The use of no-refusal DUI checkpoints continues to increase across the country, with several states and municipalities announcing they would utilize such no-refusal checkpoints, especially over busy travel holidays. Some have wondered about the legality of the approach and whether allowing no-refusal drunk driving stops is constitutional.
First things first, what are no-refusal stops? The concept behind a no-refusal stop is that once a person has been stopped by law enforcement officials and shows signs of possible intoxication, whether it’s drugs or alcohol, they will be given the chance to voluntarily submit to a test to determine their level of impairment. Normally, drivers have the option of refusing to submit to such a test, a decision that typically leads to revoked driving privileges for a certain period.
Under the no-refusal approach, police officers have the ability to force a person to submit to a chemical test to determine their intoxication, by force if necessary. Typically, this test takes the form of a blood test, and if the suspected drunk driver is uncooperative, it could involve being handcuffed and restrained while a nurse draws blood.
So how could this kind of force be allowed? After all, if drivers normally have the option of refusing, why would it be constitutional to deny them that right during certain campaigns by police departments? The reason is that the Fourth Amendment allows such searches, assuming a judge issues a warrant authorizing the blood draw.
In cases where no-refusal searches take place, judges are active participants in the process, either coming down in person to man the checkpoint or agreeing to stay awake and in the office to sign and review warrant requests. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures, meaning those searches that are either warrantless or not based on probable cause. Assuming officers can convince a judge that probable cause exists and the judge then signs off on a warrant, the Fourth Amendment allows for forced chemical testing.
The probable cause in these cases is almost always the officer’s own observations. In jurisdictions where the judges actually man the checkpoints, it’s possible the judge could actually observe the suspicious conduct him or herself.
Though no-refusal DUI checkpoints have not yet spread to every state, some anti-drunk driving groups are pressuring law enforcement officials to increase the use of the tactic to better round up and arrest drunk drivers. Some experts warn that it could just be a matter of time until no-refusal makes its way to every state.
Source: “The Constitutionality of no refusal drunk driving stops,” by Judson Phillips, published at CommDigiNews.com.