Motorists in West Virginia and Kentucky may notice an increased police presence this Fourth of July weekend. Independence Day is a popular day for parties, and police will be on the lookout for those they believe are driving under the influence after such celebrations. For this reason, they may set up DUI checkpoints, where random motorists are pulled over to determine whether they are drunk driving. Motorists in West Virginia and Kentucky may wonder if such traffic stops are legal.
The answer is that in both West Virginia and Kentucky, sobriety checkpoints are legal. In West Virginia DUI checkpoints are legal per the state and federal Constitution and may be performed weekly. In Kentucky, DUI checkpoints are legal per the federal Constitution and, as in West Virginia, they also may be performed weekly.
Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, people have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, a search will be considered reasonable if the officer has probable cause to believe a crime is currently taking place or has been committed. Generally, random or intrusive searches without probable cause are unlawful, and any evidence obtained from such searches cannot be used against the accused in court.
It may seem, then that random DUI stops of motorists who aren’t exhibiting signs of drunk driving violate the Fourth Amendment. However, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the states’ need to stop DUI crashes outweighs the minimal burden of a search of a sober motorist. Thus, sobriety checkpoints aren’t unreasonable and do not violate the Fourth Amendment.
Nevertheless, it may seem unfair to be stopped and accused of drunk driving when you are sober. When a sobriety checkpoint leads to an arrest on DUI, the situation becomes very serious. Those accused of DUI after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint will want to ensure they understand their legal rights, so they can determine if the stop itself was lawful.