Areas of Practice

Roadside Safety Checks and Roadblocks

Roadside Safety Checks And Roadblocks

Question: Are roadside safety checks and roadblocks a violation of 4th Amendment rights?

Answer: The United States Supreme Court has ruled that roadside safety checks are not an impermissible intrusion on a motorist’s 4th Amendment rights, and are necessary to prevent danger on our roads and highways.

The following is excerpted from a chapter written by David B. Franks in “The Legality of Search and Seizure in DUI Cases” by Thomson Reuters/Aspatore Books, 2012.

During holiday periods, many police departments throughout the country conduct roadside safety checks/roadblocks ostensibly to ensure that motorists are using safety belts, have secured children in appropriate child restraint seats, and maintain current insurance for their vehicle. These holiday periods include Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, Super Bowl weekend, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. In many instances, these are multi-department operations in which officers from a local police department and deputies from the local county sheriff’s police department, or officers from a local police department and troopers from the state police, or even a combination of officers from all three police agencies, participate in and operate the roadblock. When the state police are involved in a roadside safety check, troopers from the Illinois State Police usually lead the roadside safety check operations.

In actuality, roadside safety checks/roadblocks are established during holiday periods to determine if motorists are committing the offense of driving under the influence. The United States Department of Transportation provides funding to each state, usually to the state’s Department of Transportation or equivalent department. In Illinois, after receiving funding from the United States Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) provides roadside safety check (RSC) grant funding to the Illinois State Police and local police departments. Upon application from municipal police departments, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) distributes grant money to the municipal police departments to operate a roadside safety check.

Many practitioners believe that if a driver is stopped and arrested for the offense of DUI at a roadside safety check, they have no chance of challenging the stop or beating the charge. Without question, a roadside safety check DUI arrest can be challenged, especially where there is seldom any evidence of bad driving. A DUI defense attorney must not presume that the law enforcement agency properly conducted the roadblock.

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