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Are sobriety checkpoints legal?

A roadside checkpoint is a planned law enforcement effort that stops drivers to assess them for alcohol or drug impairment, seatbelt or car seat violations, distracted driving, and other driving violations. During the Fourth of July holiday and other times of year when drinking and driving allegedly spikes, these checkpoints may focus on drunk driving and be termed sobriety checkpoints. Whether roadside checkpoints are legal is a matter of debate in the various states through the country, but, here in Arkansas, they may be used by law enforcement.

For a sobriety checkpoint to be legal, it must meet the standards set forth by the United States Supreme Court. First, it must address a gravely important public concern, and second it must advance the cause of that public concern. A sobriety checkpoint may still be illegal if it imposes too severe hardships on the liberties of individuals, such as too much infringement on individuals' rights to privacy.

Since drunk driving is often identified as a serious threat to the health and safety of the public, sobriety checkpoints set up to deter and prevent drunk driving are often allowed under state and case law. However, that does not mean that every sobriety checkpoint that law enforcement officers execute is done in a legally permissible way.

This Fourth of July, drivers who are stopped and arrested for DWI at sobriety checkpoints should remember that they have rights to challenge the claims that have been made against them. While readers are encouraged to enjoy and celebrate this important summer holiday, they are also encouraged to seek legal support if they are involved in sobriety checkpoint arrests for intoxicated driving.

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