DUI Sobriety Checkpoints
by Lewis & Laws
DUI Sobriety Checkpoints in Washington
According to an article posted in the Seattle Times on November 5th, Washington legislators are looking into the possibility of allowing law enforcement to run random DUI sobriety checkpoints. A sobriety checkpoint is a location on the roadway where officers will pull traffic over without probable cause or individualized suspicion of criminal activity to see if any of the drivers have been drinking or show signs of intoxication. This proposed change in law comes on the heels of already drastic changes in DUI law that went into effect in September of this year.
If allowed, this would not be the first time DUI checkpoints were allowed in Washington. They were previously routine in some areas of the State until 1988, at which point the Washington State Supreme Court reminded everyone that such practice was a gross violation of the Washington State Constitution.
The 4th Amendment of the United State Constitution reads "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." Meanwhile, Article 1, § 7 of the Washington State Constitution states "no person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law." Washington courts have typically held that the state constitution provides greater protection for individual privacy interests than the federal constitution, routinely striking down warrantless searches and seizures where appropriate.
In City of Seattle v. Mesiani, the Supreme Court of Washington considered whether DUI sobriety checkpoints were a violation of the both constitutions. The court noted its longstandin concern about maintaining the privacy interests of those in automobiles, and concluded the sobriety checkpoints were searches and seizures udner the state constitution. The court firmly placed the burden on those who run DUI sobriety checkpoints to show that such stops fall under an exception to the warrant requirement, which the City of Seattle was unable to do. The court also found the sobriety checkpoints violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constiution, a position which is at odds with other states which continue to allow such checkpoints.
If Washington legislators and the governor wish to allow DUI sobriety checkpoints, the only way to do so would involve amending the state constution to curtail privacy interests. In theory, the scope of such an amendment could allow government intrusion into other non-DUI related matters depending on how it is done.
Iff you are facing a DUI charge, contact an attorney who knows the ramifications of what's at stake and knows how your privacy interests may be affected. Give us a call at 206.209.0608 and schedule your free consultation today.