In this country, we have what's known as Fourth Amendment rights. Part of the rights is to be free from unlawful search and seizure. The law does not get to unreasonably search and seize either your person or your property without probable cause, meaning if you haven't done anything wrong or, even to a lesser extent, you have given no reason for anyone to suspect you've done something wrong, you don't get pulled over.
Unless it's a sobriety checkpoint in Maine. A sobriety checkpoint is effectively an unlawful search and seizure. You are on your way home, you see a van up ahead with police officers, and you are asked to stop your vehicle even though you did nothing wrong. But herein lies the problem: the U.S. Supreme Court effectively made a loophole in the Fourth Amendment with regard to sobriety checkpoints.
In Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled sobriety checkpoints are constitutional.
So, here we are in 2019, and at the beginning of September, six people were arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence (OUI) as a result of a sobriety checkpoint in Lebanon, Maine. It was reported that the police were so pleased with the success of this one operation that they may set up another sobriety checkpoint later this month, which is right about now.
Six OUI Arrests over Memorial Day Weekend
A four-hour checkpoint was set up along Route 202. Law enforcement manning the checkpoint included:
- the York Sheriff's Office,
- Maine State Police,
- the Berwick police department,
- the South Berwick police department, and
- the York police department.
To arrest six people, 850 vehicles were stopped over the course of these four hours. Twenty-five people were actually given field sobriety tests – so 19 were made to do these tests when there was no initial reason for them to have been pulled over, and yet they still get criminal treatment.
Further, not only were six motorists arrested, but another six were arrested on other offenses, like:
- violating bail conditions,
- operating after suspension of a driver's license, and
- driving without a driver's license.
Finally, four of the six were arrested for OUI on account of alcohol while the other two were arrested for OUI on account of suspicion for illegal drug intoxication.
Protect Yourself Against a Sobriety Checkpoint: Know Your Rights
If you are surprised by a sobriety checkpoint anytime in the future, know your rights. It can go a long way to ensuring the police uphold the law appropriately. The first thing to know is that you have to provide your driver's license, insurance card, and registration card if asked by the police. With that said:
- You have the right not to answer any of their questions. Respectfully decline to do so. You don't want to engage too much because – say for example you were at a restaurant with friends and had a drink and you mention this without thinking twice, the police now have reason to request you perform a field sobriety test.
- You have the right to decline performing a field sobriety test. These tests are highly subjective and can easily be used as probable cause for an arrest.
- You have the right to an attorney if you are arrested. Continue to respectfully decline answering questions but speak up and advise the police you wish to speak to an attorney and then contact an experienced OUI defense lawyer in Maine.
If you have questions about an OUI or want to fight an OUI charge in Maine, contact William H. Ashe. He and his legal team will advocate tirelessly on your behalf.