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DUI checkpoints: novel, fearful to many Florida college students

An “unnerving experience.”

That is how one online spotlighting of a drunk driving arrest in Florida terms the ordeal.

And, indeed, is there any other way to put it?

The potential downsides of a Florida DUI stop and resulting conviction are flatly dire. They range broadly from imposed jail time, license suspension and fines/court costs to jacked insurance rates, community service and a host of other punitive exactions.

For a young person in school, they can seem especially problematic.

Perhaps that is exactly who you are as you delve into this DUI-linked blog post, especially if you live in the Fort Myers area.

There are scores of thousands of individuals in your demographic, with legions of bright 20-somethings attending school at the Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida SouthWestern State College and other area institutions.

Obviously, many of you drive. It is unsurprising that some students also have one or a few drinks occasionally before getting behind the wheel.

And confronting Florida police en masse on a roadway.

Obviously, that can make for a harrowing – and, to many drivers, truly frightening – experience.

It is also a commonplace, with police officers frequently conducting so-called DUI checkpoints (sometimes called sobriety roadblocks) on state streets and highways.

What legally authorizes Florida DUI checkpoints?

Not every state conducts checkpoints, but a majority do. Florida is one of them. Here are some points to note regarding the practice’s legality:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned roadblocks some years back in a case ruling
  • Thirty-eight states currently authorize checkpoints
  • A small minority of states regard the practice as unconstitutional
  • Federal regulators have issued guidelines for administering roadblocks

Florida law enforcers rely upon the SCOTUS ruling to authorize roadblocks within the state, citing the federal Constitution as ultimate authority.

What guidelines control Florida roadblock set-up and administration?

If a single word was to be used to address DUI checkpoints, “reasonableness” might be an apt choice. There are a number of distinct factors relevant to a roadblock. An in-depth overview of the process notes that they are collectively considered from the perspective of whether an operation “is reasonable in both its creation and execution.” These are some telling indicators, posed as questions:

  • Did a state authority call for a checkpoint based on an articulable reason?
  • Was a location thoughtfully selected, with the public being given advance notice?
  • Was a rational/neutral system in place concerning specific drivers to be stopped (e.g., every fifth motorist)?
  • Was detainment/questioning reasonably nonintrusive and limited in time?

It is understandable for motorists to have questions and concerns regarding police conduct and reach during an operation that can seem jarring and unusual.

There is a sometimes a thin balancing equation evidenced between police intrusion and the need to promote public safety. That is arguably on display routinely with sobriety roadblock administration.

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Steven Wetter Attorney at Law, P.A.
1617 Hendry Street, Suite 213
Fort Myers, FL 33901

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