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Are roadblocks constitutional?

Statesboro, GA |

My son was driving 3 friends who were impaired home. He had one beer....hit a roadblock. Son admitted to the beer, all 4 are 20 yrs. old. He agreed to a breathalizer, and passed, the others did not pass. He realizes that he should not have had the beer, but felt he was doing the right thing by driving them home. Now all 4 have to appear in court for MIP citation. Is he screwed since he is 20? Is it worth telling the judge the situation, since he was not drunk. What type of fine will he receive and will his license be suspended?

Attorney Answers 5

  1. Unfortunately, our Supreme Court has determined that they are when properly set up and carried out. You are seeing the destruction of personal freedoms as we have known it through the enactment of such laws. The agencies using them are subject to guidelines which are often overlooked and only a skilled criminal defense lawyer, often a specialist in DUI , should be consulted. Pointing out the weaknesses of the state's case can often result in the roadlock itself being the cause of a dismissal or reduction of charges. One such example occurred for my client in Statesboro this AM. You are invited to review my profile on and examine the Legal Guides I have prepared, including some questions you may want to ask to determine if the lawyer you are interviewing actually knows what is necessary to defend a DUI case.

  2. Unfortunately courts all over the country have upheld the constitutionality of roadblocks where they are carried out under rules that are established. The process can be challenged and I highly recommend that you retain skilled counsel like the attorney who answered this question above.

    I would only disagree with the statement that "you are seeing the destruction of personal freedoms" through such laws. In fact, the courts have also resoundingly held that driving is not a right but a privilege. Therefore, those who choose to operate motor vehicles must operate those vehicles in compliance with all of the rules, including the implied consent to field sobriety tests and roadblocks. The only people losing their "freedom" are those injured by drunk drivers. Citizens, especially minors, are not free to drink and drive. No attorney could seriously make the argument that such a 'Constitutional freedom' exists.

    This answer is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies.

  3. Yes, they are, presuming they are set up in a specific way.

    You may wish to hire an attorney to evaluate the police reports and the roadblock paperwork (most departments have handbooks and guidelines for each check point) to ensure they comply with the US Supreme Court cases which establish the allowable protocol.

    John Yetter

  4. The answers above are correct. Whether a roadblock meets constitutional muster is an issue of fact which, upon motion, must be established by the state. The second part of your question will require more information from you or your son. Whether your son has a chance of beating the minor in possession charge will depend on several factors. There is an exception to the law prohibiting minors from possessing alcohol. There may also be factual issues for defense. To give you a better idea of the likely sentence, if your son is convicted, you will need to identify the specific court. It would be a very good idea for your son to meet a local DUI defense attorney for a free initial consultation.

  5. Your son needs to retain counsel. Cases like this are very frustrating to me, because the increasingly conservative legal system has lost its sense of proportion. We send 18 year olds to fight wars in Iraq, but Congress mandated that the states raise the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. Fortunately, your son will likely be able to retain counsel who can assist in bringing a sense of fairness and proportionality to his case--and hopefully the case will be before a fair-minded judge,

    Courts have upheld roadblocks as part of a recent trend toward eliminating any Fourth Amendment rights of privacy with regard to driving automobiles. Frankly, my personal view is that these decisions are fundamentally wrong--drunk driving of course should not be tolerated but the anti-drunk driving activists have engaged in overkill, and the courts and politicians have caved into their unreasonable demands. It is tragic when anyone dies in a fatal car accident--particularly if the cause is drunk driving, but this does not justify fundamentally altering our basic constitutional rights---the law should require a reasonable suspicion of specific illegal activity by a specific individual before the police can stop someone, whether in his car, home, office, or while in any public place. Instead, we now allow police to set up roadblocks and/or engage in random searches in subway stations, airports, etc. We take pride in our freedom when compared to communist nations and/or dictatorships, but in truth our civil rights are being slowly but surely lost in the name of law and order. In my view, random stops, roadblocks, and racial profiling (which is epidemic in certain neighborhoods in New York) are constitutionally improper---and it is very unfortunate that our increasingly conservative judiciary has failed to adhere to our basic constitutional values.

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