Sobriety Check Points

Posted over 4 years ago. Applies to Virginia, 2 helpful votes



Fourt Amendment Right to Privacy

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Reasonable Search

A search's reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment generally depends on whether the search was made pursuant to a warrant issued upon probable cause. U.S. v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 701 ('83). For a search or arrest warrant to be reasonable, it must be judicially sanctioned. A warrant must be based on information supplied by a sworn person accountable to the court, supported by probable cause and be limited in scope.


Probable Cause

Probable cause is the standard by which a police officer has the authority to make an arrest, conduct a personal or property search, or to obtain a warrant for arrest. The Oxford Companion to American Law defines probable cause as "information sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that the wanted individual had committed a crime (for an arrest warrant) or that evidence of a crime or contraband would be found in a search (for a search warrant)". The State may however interfere with an individual's Fourth Amendment interests with less than probable cause and without a warrant if the intrusion is only minimal and is justified by law enforcement purposes.


Terry Stop

Under Terry v. Ohio 392 U.S. 1 (1968), law enforcement officers are permitted to conduct a limited warrantless search on a level of suspicion less than probable cause under certain circumstances. This is known as the reasonable suspicion standard.


Reasonable Suspicion

An officer must demonstrate that the individual has been, is, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity based on specific and articulable facts and inferences. To conduct a stop, officers must be able to point to specific and articulatory facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant their actions.


Check Points

The courts have generally said that the police may not conduct warrantless traffic stops where the primary purpose is "to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing," a stop must be accompanied by an "individualized suspicion of wrongdoing." The rationale behind the court's decisions is warrantless traffic stops could be constructed for almost any conceivable law-enforcement purpose, and without Fourth Amendment protection, would become a routine part of American life. So, the government may not detain an individual even momentarily without reasonable and articulable suspicion.There are a few exceptions. Such as where society's need is great and no other effective means of meeting the need is available, and intrusion on people's privacy is minimal. Even though a stop at a "sobriety checkpoint" or "to verify that drivers and vehicle are properly registered", If the primary purpose of the fixed check point is for verifying driver and vehicle information , or ensuring driver



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Additional Resources

Loudoun Lawyer

Virginia Virtual Law Firm

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