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Is this the new way to protect your rights at a DUI checkpoint?

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects Americans against "unreasonable search and seizure." The interpretation of this protection as it relates to DUI traffic stops has been, at times, complicated. Generally speaking, law enforcement officers have the authority to initiate a traffic stop based on reasonable suspicion. If they then have probable cause to believe that the driver is intoxicated (through field sobriety tests and other investigative procedures), they can make an arrest.

But do law enforcement officers have the authority to stop all motorists coming through a given area, even if there is no reasonable suspicion that a given driver may have committed a crime or traffic violation? This is essentially what happens at sobriety checkpoints, sometimes called DUI checkpoints. Although 38 states (including Louisiana) have concluded that checkpoints are constitutional, they remain highly controversial.

A recent news article discusses an emerging trend among drivers at checkpoints. It was popularized in a viral YouTube video by a criminal defense attorney in Florida. The video shows the man passing through a sobriety checkpoint on New Year's Eve.

Rather than going through the normal conversations with officers, the man has his driver's license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration in a zip-top bag hanging by a string outside his closed window. There is also a piece of paper inside the bag that says "I remain silent. No searches. I want my lawyer."

The attorney responsible for creating the "fair DUI flyer" argues that it allows drivers to protect themselves from erroneous accusations. He says that as soon as you open your window or say even one word, an officer could claim he smelled alcohol or that your speech sounds slurred.

As a political statement, the fair DUI flyer sends a powerful message. But drivers who want to copy this behavior need to be careful. DUI checkpoint laws vary by state, so what you see in the YouTube video might not comply with local laws. Moreover, many police officers may become even more suspicious when they encounter a driver who seemingly tries to flout the law (from their perspective).

Unfortunately, DUI checkpoints are unlikely to go away any time soon. But as long as individuals continue to assert their rights in very public ways, we can at least ensure that checkpoints remain a topic of debate.

Source: The Washington Post, "Why Florida drivers are making videos of themselves refusing to talk to police at DUI checkpoints," Peter Holley, Feb. 10, 2015

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

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