DUI Sobriety Checkpoints in Palm Beach County
“DUI Checkpoints”, sometimes referred to as “Sobriety Checkpoints”, and also known “DUI Roadblock” are all the same thing and are used interchangeably. Law enforcement claim they are about savings lives. Local law enforcement, Palm beach Sheriff’s Office, FHP, West Palm Beach Police Department often provide press releases that state, "The goal of the sobriety checkpoints is to raise awareness that will help reduce injuries and save lives." Palm Beach County residents receive notice through local newspaper and social media postings detailing that a particular road will have a checkpoint, usually several agencies, at one location in an attempt to deter impaired drivers. They also do drivers’ license checks, check for mechanical violations, for example, a cracked windshield and look for individuals that have outstanding warrants. Many people criticize police conducting DUI checkpoints, arguing that they violate the fourth (4th) amendment against unreasonable search and seizure. However, DUI checkpoints or sobriety checkpoints have been deemed legal in Florida.
Explaining a DUI Checkpoint to someone that has never seen one: You are driving down A1A in West Palm Beach and you start to encounter traffic, as you get closer you notice lots of police cars and blue lights. As you drive closer you randomly see other vehicles going through make shift lanes, usually with flares and cones, used to direct traffic. Randomly, a police officer will waive some cars through, allowing them to continue, while directing some cars to turn off into a parking lot. Imagine going through a toll booth for a moment on I95, you slow down pay the toll and continue, but imagine if the booth drive simply pointed for you to pull over on the side and another person begins talking with you. That’s what happens at a DUI Checkpoint. If you are un-lucky enough to be asked to pull over, a different police officer will ask you a few questions about where you are traveling or where you have been, while simultaneously asking you to provide your drivers’ license, registration and insurance. The DUI officer is looking for signs of impairment by either drugs or alcohol. They may even ask, “what have you been drinking this evening?” Obviously, a loaded question because you don’t want to lie to police but you are scared they may jump to conclusions. You then reply, “I had a drink with my dinner a few hours ago”. Immediately, you are asked to step out of the vehicle and a DUI Investigation begins. Maybe your perfect and everything goes fine and you are let go or like many individuals when surrounded by law enforcement you feel anxious and display clues that police view as signs of impairment. The Standardized Field Sobriety Exercises, SFST’s, are difficult. You feel embarrassed by others driving by and other police officers watching and or filming you. You don’t perform as expected and before you know it, you are being arrested for DUI and being asked to provide a breath, urine or blood sample.
DUI Checkpoint Attorneys in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale
Welcome to The Law Office of Roger P. Foley. We understand what you are dealing with and have made it our mission to help individuals wrongfully charged with DUI. We have been defending DUI Checkpoint cases since 2004. The good news is that DUI Checkpoints have many requirements for them to be constitutionally valid. We will inspect and attack DUI Checkpoints because the consequences are serious and you have a lot to lose, if convicted. DUI checkpoints have many parts, many departments, and a plan that must be followed to be legal. Through experience, we know that mistakes are made and innocent people are arrested so we work hard to prove your innocence. We do that by holding police to the standard by which they are trained and make sure they observe all the rules.
Contact our office at (561) 746-7076 to discuss your DUI arrest that came via a DUI Sobriety Checkpoint.
How to Win DUI Checkpoint Cases
DUI Checkpoint cases are all about technical issues. A regular DUI Case has many defenses but a DUI Checkpoint has additional defenses. A DUI Checkpoint or Sobriety Checkpoint requires notice to the community and an operational plan. The Florida Supreme Court in State v. Jones, 483 So.2d 433 (Fla.1986), held that an operational plan must be written before a DUI Roadblock is established. It went further to say, “Written guidelines should cover in detail the procedures which field officers are to follow at the roadblock. Ideally, these guidelines should set out with reasonable specificity procedures regarding the selection of vehicles, detention techniques, duty assignments, and the disposition of vehicles. Of course, if the guidelines fail to cover each of these matters they need not necessarily fail. Rather, courts should view each set of guidelines as a whole when determining the plan's sufficiency.” This is where you start attacking a DUI Checkpoint case.
When clear and precise instructions are not followed, it gives the defense an opportunity to win the case. Your DUI Defense Attorney will acquire a copy of the operational plan and examine it. That plan will be compared and contrasted to how the officers involved actually conducted their roles during the DUI operation. Most fourth (4th) amendment issues begin with the stop of the vehicle. The DUI operational plan may have required every 5th car to be stopped between 9:00 and 11:00pm and then change to every third car between 11:01pm and 1:00am. If the stopping officer failed to follow that basic instruction, then the stop will be deemed invalid by the Court during Motion to Suppress Hearing.
A Motion to Suppress is a request from the Defendant, through his DUI attorney, to throw out illegal evidence acquired by police when they failed to obey rules and/or laws. In the case of DUI Roadblocks, the rules are determined by the guidelines established prior to contact with motorists. Sometimes, the written guidelines are ambiguous and give too much discretion to officers thereby causing it to be unconstitutional. Not only is the 4th amendment a legal issue in DUI checkpoint cases, but the fourteenth (14) amendment, due process of law, is also a point of contention.
The rules require that police follow a distinct set of rules, your DUI defense lawyer will review the reports, the previously set guidelines, possibly take depositions, or use the sworn testimony from the administrative hearing to determine what mistakes were made and what rules were not strictly followed. At that point, a motion to suppress will be filed. The officers involved will be placed on the stand and a cross examination will completed by your DUI lawyer. The Palm Beach County judge will then allow both sides to make legal argument. The judge will consider the facts and applicable law and determine whether evidence should be excluded as fruits of the poisonous tree. If your motion is granted, the likelihood of dismissal increases in your case. Sometimes, the evidence excluded is dipositive, meaning that without it, the state attorney’s office cannot continue and the case is dismissed.
DUI Checkpoint Operational Guidelines - Basic Requirements
As we discussed above, the leading case is State v. Jones, 483 So.2d 433 (Fla.1986), and it requires that a DUI checkpoint be written and that it detail how police officers will conduct the roadblock. The goal is that officers not given wide latitude to determine who should be stopped, what questions asked, etc. It’s a plan and it needs to be followed.
NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC - Think the five (5) W’s, who, what where, when, why. For example, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office along with Palm Beach Gardens Police, and Jupiter Police Department will have a DUI Sobriety Checkpoint on Donald Ross Blvd, two (2) miles east of I-95 at the intersection of Military Trail on the hours of 9:30pm on January 2nd, 2021 and 4:00 am on January 3rd, 2021.
- Where the sign notifying motorist is located on road and place to allow drivers to legally U-turn prior to checkpoint site,
- Give explicit directions for how motor vehicles are stopped. For example, every 5th car between 10pm and 11:50pm, every 3rd car between midnight and 2:00am, every other vehicle between 2:01am and 3:45am.
- Tasks assigned to officers, i.e., stopping, SFSTs, Breath Machine, etc.
- Questions officers will ask during initial conduct with driver
- What signs of impairment officer must establish prior to SFST’s
- Protocol in dealing with uncooperative motorists
- Supervisory changes that may be made on varying conditions
There are dozens of requirements in the operational plan/ DUI Guidelines. They are often similar but different so it’s important for your DUI Checkpoint lawyer to acquire said plan and compare it with the probable cause affidavit and other supplemental reports. Find the discrepancies in what should have been done and what was actually done and begin the legal argument.
Strict Adherence to DUI Checkpoint Guidelines Required
The Court in Campbell v. State, 679 So.2d 1168 (Fla.1996) reaffirmed the need for the written guidelines to minimize an officer's discretion in the field and said
- “Written guidelines are not a mere formality”
- “Guidelines are to ensure police do not act with unbridled discretion”
- “Police are not given general authority to set up routine roadblocks anytime any place”
- “Stopping and detaining a citizen is serious and requires particularized advance planning and direction strict compliance thereafter”
The Campbell Court laid out the requirements by which Palm Beach County judges need to review deviations made by police in following DUI Checkpoint Guidelines. In Campbell, the plan allowed for every vehicle to be stopped and checked, and in the event of traffic, the supervisor would either temporarily discontinue the checkpoint or change the sequence of how cars were to be stopped, for example instead of every car maybe change to every seventh car. The supervising officer assigned to deal with that scenario had to leave for another matter and a contingency plan was not established. Another officer had to fill in and have dual roles. This was not contemplated in the guidelines and therefore the officers were not in strict compliance with guidelines. The higher court ruled that the Motion to Suppress should have been granted for failure to adhere to the guidelines and the case was dismissed.
DUI Checkpoints in Martin County, Florida
The Law office of Roger P. Foley defends individuals charged with DUI throughout Florida. DUI arrests are frequent in Martin County so are plea bargains that come with mandatory conviction and a drivers’ license suspensions and increased insurance rates. Mr. Foley understands the stress a DUI will bring to your life and will make every effort in finding how police deviated from the DUI Checkpoint guidelines. If you have a DUI anywhere in the 19th Judicial District consider contacting DUI lawyer Roger P. Foley for a free case strategy. Mr. Foley resides in Jupiter, Florida and represents individuals charged with DUI in Martin and St. Lucie Counties. Your career and your freedom are important and a Dui conviction can negatively impact them. Martin County DUI cases, unlike other counties, do not offer DUI diversion programs. If you want a reduced charge to reckless driving or a dismissal of your charges then you better higher an experience attorney to the fight your DUI case. Mistakes are made in every DUI case and sometimes an innocent person is arrested for DUI, if you believe you have been falsely arrested for DUI in Stuart, Florida then contact a DUI lawyer that is knowledgably, experienced and not scared to speak up on your behalf. Don’t accept a DUI charge, have a seasoned defense attorney review all the discovery and provide the best defense in your case. Contact the Law Office of Roger P. Foley or call (561) 746-7076 when you need DUI representation. No office visit needed. We can use zoom or skype and have a virtual meeting. Call to set an appointment.