You see them around the holidays. Labor Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving. DUI checkpoints popping up on the roads. The United States Supreme Court first upheld the constitutionality of these warrantless, probable cause free stops in 1990. Since then, States crafted their own specific legal rules and regulations for DUI checkpoints, with some outright prohibiting them. Ten states, in fact, outlaw DUI checkpoints. Illinois is not one of them.
DUI checkpoints are not only legal in Illinois, they are extremely effective at providing lock solid evidence against those caught in their net. A Mobile Breath Test trailer is typically available. Often, a Judge is on hand to sign warrants to draw blood for those suspected of DUI at a checkpoint. Blood alcohol evidence taken pursuant to a warrant, while not impossible to challenge, is a very difficult and expensive endeavour. You will need your own expert to contest the blood draw’s findings. Your best bet is to avoid a DUI checkpoint all together.
So how can you? What if you go to pick up another sixer and find yourself in a line of cars headed to the danger zone?
CAN YOU PULL A U-TURN TO AVOID A DUI CHECKPOINT?
REAL LIFE ANSWER:
The Illinois Supreme Court addressed this question just over two years ago in People v. Timmsen. There, the defendant turned around 50 feet from the DUI checkpoint only to be pulled over and arrested for Driving While License Revoked. The Court found this action was enough to legally pull over the defendant. Specifically, the “evasive” nature of making the u-turn amounted to an “unprovoked flight” that was suggestive of wrongdoing.
But it wasn’t just the U-turn that justified pulling Timmsen over. In fact, the Illinois Supreme Court found that avoiding a checkpoint, standing alone, is NOT a reason to stop a car. However, the Court applied a sacred 4th amendment doctrine: the “totality of the circumstances.” This is legal code for all the individual facts of your case.
In Timmsen, the Court justified the stop by coupling the U-turn with the fact that:
● It was 1:15 am;
● The roadblock was well marked.
RULE: Whether or not a roadblock stop violates the 4th amendment in Illinois breaks down to this rule: “the totality of circumstances present in each case must govern whether a motorist’s avoidance of a roadblock amounts to reasonable suspicion.”
In real life, if you try to avoid a DUI checkpoint, the court is ALMOST ALWAYS going to find the requisite “totality of the circumstances.” The common characteristics of most DUI checkpoints are going to provide the “totality of the circumstances” requirements. They’re going to be at night. They’re going to be organized and well marked. Very often they will be publicized in the local news media. They’re not going to be after Sunday brunch (although that might be a good idea in Wrigleyville).
So while the Illinois Supreme Court claims that avoiding a police checkpoint can be legal, the reality is: if you avoid a police checkpoint- they’re going to stop you. And the police will point to some ambiguous detail to justify it under the “totality of the circumstances.” Look at Timmsen, besides the U-turn, all he did was drive at 1:15 AM toward a well marked road block. That alone was enough to turn his evasive maneuvers into reasonable suspicion.
The best solution to avoiding a DUI at checkpoint if you think you may be over the limit is to pull up, be polite, and REFUSE ALL FIELD SOBRIETY AND BREATHALYZER TESTS.
WHAT TYPES OF CHECKPOINTS ARE CONSTITUTIONAL?
● DUI: YES
● TRAFFIC SAFETY/LICENSE CHECK: YES
● BORDER: YES
● TO INVESTIGATE A HIT & RUN: YES
● DRUG INTERDICTION: NO
● GENERAL CRIME: NO
● TO SEEK INFORMATION/WITNESSES TO A CRIME/ACCIDENT: NO
The constitutionality of a roadblock depends on the “primary purpose” of the checkpoint. If the “primary purpose” is indistinguishable from the general interest of crime control, the roadblock is unconstitutional. If, on the other hand, the primary purpose is roadway safety = constitutional.
Individual cities and counties throughout Illinois have their own rules of policies for DUI checkpoints. Chicago’s policy is: Special Order S04-08-05 of the Chicago Police directives. Highlights of the policy include:
● At the beginning of the checkpoint, every 5th car will be stopped;
● “Each motorist stopped will be greeted courteously, told the reason for the stop, and requested to provide a valid driver's license and proof of insurance. Upon compliance and if there is no significant reason to believe a violation has been committed, the motorist will be allowed to proceed. The motorist will be directed safely back into the traffic flow.”
The Chicago Police Department also routinely engages in “DUI Saturation Patrols.” This involves a large number of officers swarming an area, on the lookout for impaired drivers. The CPD publishes press releases on their website to notify the public of the location and times for the DUI Saturation Patrols.
In Illinois, you can find out when and where the police are setting up roadblocks at the following link: http://www.duiblock.com/dui_checkpoint_locations/illinois/.
Instead of trying to stay up to date with all the upcoming police roadblocks, don’t drink and drive. Better yet. Get an Uber. Or a designated driver. Roadblock or no roadblock, there’ll be no need for a U-turn. You won’t have to avoid anything. Unless your Uber driver is drunk……
Chicago DUI, DUI, DUI Checkpoint