Know Your Legal Rights: DUI Checkpoints

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Hawaii?

In a DUI checkpoint, also referred to as a sobriety checkpoint or DUI roadblock, police officers stop vehicles, often using a sequence such as every fourth vehicle, to investigate whether the driver shows signs of alcohol or drug impairment. Normally, law enforcement must have probable cause to stop a vehicle, and because these roadblocks regularly impede sober, law-abiding citizens, some have called into question whether DUI checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects people against unreasonable search and seizures.

DUI Checkpoint Laws

A Supreme Court ruling in 1990 determined that DUI checkpoints do not violate a citizen’s rights and the public interest in preventing drunk driving was enough to justify the “brief intrusion” of a roadblock.

Sobriety checkpoints are legal in 38 states including Hawaii. In the other 12 states, they are prohibited due to state law or the state’s interpretation of the Constitution.

DUI Roadblocks in Hawaii

Sobriety checkpoints in Hawaii must follow minimum standards according to HRS Section §§286-162.5, 286-162.6. These requirements include stopping vehicles in a specified pattern, limiting the roadblocks to three hours in a fixed location, having enough uniformed officers and official vehicles to keep traffic flowing with minimal inconvenience, giving advance warning of the checkpoint with signs or flares, providing safe holding areas with proper lighting and uniformed officers with legitimate identification, and discontinuing the roadblock if it creates traffic.

Your Rights During a DUI Checkpoint

Police are allowed to briefly detain drivers during a roadblock, but they are not allowed to search you or your vehicle without your permission or probable cause such as slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, or other signs of intoxication.

It is important to know that drivers are under no obligation to answer questions from the officer and should never agree to a voluntary search, even if they have nothing to hide. Law enforcement cannot keep you for indefinite amounts of time, however they also don’t have to tell you that you are allowed to leave. A good question to ask is, “Am I being arrested for a crime or am I free to go?”

Drug Checkpoints

While DUI roadblocks are legal for the purpose of removing dangerous drunk drivers from the road, a 2000 decision by the Supreme Court found that “because the checkpoint program’s primary purpose is indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control, the checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment.”

Some police departments employ a trick that is deceptive but not illegal. They put up signs to warn of an upcoming drug checkpoint and watch how drivers react to the warning. Drivers who make suspicious U-turns or throw drugs out to avoid getting caught are then pursued and officers will use probable cause to search the vehicle. If you come across one of these drug checkpoints, contact the state’s ACLU Chapter. If you are arrested because of a drug checkpoint, it is urgent that you contact an experienced DUI lawyer to fight for your legal rights.

Hiring a DUI Attorney

If conducted according to law, DUI checkpoints are legal in Hawaii and 37 other states. This does not mean you need to confess guilt or agree to a plea bargain. A local DUI attorney will help determine your options and next steps in your case. Contact defense attorney Calvin Guetta to set up a free consultation.