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Maryland police must publicize DUI checkpoints

DUI checkpoints are an important tool of law enforcement agencies in Anne Arundel County and throughout Maryland. As such, it may seem counterproductive that police departments announce the exact time and location at which the drunk driving checkpoint will take place. If the goal of checkpoints is to apprehend and arrest impaired drivers, why would they tell the driving public about them beforehand?

The primary reason for notifying the public about checkpoints is that doing so is required by law. In 1990, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that, while checkpoints do not violate the U.S. Constitution, it is necessary to follow certain guidelines when planning and executing such an event. Publicizing the checkpoint is one such guideline.

This, the court said, is because the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution requires that police have a justifiable suspicion of driver intoxication or some other reasonable basis for pulling a vehicle over and conducting a search. By notifying the public of checkpoints, the police are essentially giving fair notice to drivers and satisfying the Fourth Amendment in the process. If the public did not have sufficient notice that they could be stopped by police for essentially no reason, the checkpoint would constitute an unconstitutional detention without reasonable suspicion.

But even though federal law requires police departments to notify the public of checkpoints, police say that there are other reasons for doing so. It appears, they say, that publicity of checkpoints acts as a deterrent to drunk driving, forcing people to think twice about driving drunk.

What do you think? Does notification of DUI checkpoints defeat the purpose?

Source: Valley Independent Sentinel, "Why Do Police Announce DUI Checkpoints?" Ethan Fry, Nov. 20, 2012

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