November 27, 2023 | Checkpoints
OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs) checkpoints are legal in Ohio and are typically enforced by the local police departments or sheriff’s offices – mainly on weekends and nights. These checkpoints aim to identify impaired drivers for public safety purposes.
A central point of contention arises with regard to how these actions intersect with the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment safeguards citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, which includes law enforcement. It stipulates that law enforcement must have probable cause to conduct a search – in other words, they need to have a legitimate belief based on facts that a crime has been committed.
In terms of OVI checkpoints, this means police would typically need a reason to believe you’re driving impaired before stopping your vehicle.
However, at an established checkpoint, there is no specific reason or probable cause for each individual stop noted beforehand, which is why lawmakers in some states view them as unconstitutional based on the Fourth Amendment protections.
Some States Ban OVI Checkpoints, While Others Have Ruled They Are Constitutional
Texas banned these checkpoints directly due to their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s language in relation to safeguarding individuals from unsolicited interference by government authorities. The state cited reasons related to implications under The Fourth Amendment.
However, other states draw upon different legal rationales behind such bans. For instance, Idaho prohibits these traffic stops but under its own state laws. Wisconsin and Wyoming utilize existing statutes within their respective jurisdictions without explicit reference toward any broader Constitutional question per se.
So, why does Ohio view them as legal?
Ohio’s Reasoning for OVI Checkpoints
Despite the objections of some states, Ohio chooses to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling from Michigan v. Sitz (496 U.S. 444). This significant case established that sobriety checkpoints are valid forms of law enforcement because they provide a benefit to public safety that outweighs any invasion of privacy.
The Supreme Court argues these stops are effective and necessary measures for handling drunk driving—a serious and often lethal issue on our roads—and thus permissible even under stringent Fourth Amendment rules against unreasonable search and seizure.
OVI Checkpoint Requirements
However, OVI checkpoints are not a free pass for law enforcement; there are strict rules that must be adhered to in order to maintain their legality.
Must Be Planned in Advance
First, the operation of these sobriety checkpoints requires advance planning. It’s essential to uphold a methodical approach which includes deciding where and when these checks will be made.
Must Choose a Location Based on Past Incidents
When deciding on a location for a sobriety checkpoint, authorities are typically required to select sites that have been problematic in the past with high rates of alcohol-related accidents or arrests.
By focusing on these ‘hot spots,’ law enforcement hopes to deter intoxicated drivers and ultimately make those areas safer for everyone traveling there, reducing OVI defendants.
Must Establish a Pattern
Additionally, authorities are required by law to follow an established pattern when they stop vehicles for inspection. This could mean stopping every third car or perhaps every fifth one – this needs to be clearly defined prior to the initiation of the checkpoint.
Must Publicize The Checkpoint
Publicizing information regarding the upcoming checkpoint is another requirement – via local newspapers or radio stations typically – aimed at ensuring citizens aren’t caught off-guard and have been given fair warning about the checkpoint being conducted.
What Happens if Law Enforcement Fails To Adhere to OVI Checkpoint Guidelines?
If law enforcement fails to adhere to these regulations, the legality of the sobriety checkpoint comes into question. The evidence collected as a result could be deemed invalid due to improper procedures.
If your lawyer can successfully argue that protocol was not followed, then any evidence related to it can be excluded, which can lead to charges or penalties being reduced or even dismissed completely.
What To Do at an OVI Checkpoint
If you ever find yourself at an OVI checkpoint, there are several things to do and keep in mind:
Stop and Roll Down Your Window
To begin the interaction, roll down your car window as soon as you approach the checkpoint to establish clear communication lines with law enforcement officials on duty.
Follow Further Orders
Should officers develop a suspicion of intoxication – for example, from observed behavior or the smell of alcohol – they may request that you pull over for further investigation. This could involve completing field sobriety exercises such as walking in a straight line or taking a breathalyzer.
Remain Calm and Let Your Lawyer Do The Work
In these potentially stressful situations, it’s best to remain calm and cooperative with law enforcement. If you believe anything is amiss concerning the legality of the stop or subsequent procedures, share this information immediately with legal counsel, as they can help challenge the evidence and issues in court.
For help, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an OVI defense lawyer.
Contact the Dayton Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Dayton
130 West Second Street #17-129
Dayton, OH 45402