Are DWI Checkpoints Legal in Minnesota?

DWI is one of the most common crimes on U.S. roads. With tens of thousands of injuries and fatalities each year resulting from alcohol-related accidents, many states allow law enforcement to set up sobriety checkpoints in order to find and arrest intoxicated drivers before they have a chance to cause an accident. Law enforcement sets up roadblocks at which certain drivers will have to pull over, speak with a police officer, and be subjected to field sobriety testing.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this practice is constitutional and permissible, and currently, DUI/DWI checkpoints are legal in close to 40 states. However, Minnesota is not one of them. DWI checkpoints were banned in Minnesota in the early 1990s on the grounds that they constitute an unlawful search and are in violation of the state constitution.

The Fourth Amendment & Probable Cause

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable intrusion by the government and requires probable cause before a person and his or her property can be searched. What this means is that a police officer cannot simply pull you over and search your vehicle without a valid reason. Opponents of sobriety checkpoints argue that even though checkpoints may deter drunk driving, it is highly unethical to conduct searches without suspicion and is a major threat to privacy.

However, just because sobriety checkpoints aren’t allowed in Minnesota doesn’t mean that DWI enforcement has backed down. There are all kinds of reasons that a driver can be pulled over on suspicion of DWI.

These include:

  • Driving in the dark without headlights
  • Swerving
  • Tailgating
  • Weaving in and out of lanes
  • Abrupt and frequent braking
  • Taking an abrupt or illegal turn
  • Driving in the wrong lane

The driver may then be asked to submit to field sobriety testing and/or provide a breath or blood sample. Refusal to submit to chemical testing will result in a driver’s license revocation pursuant to Minnesota’s implied consent law.

If you are facing DWI charges in Minnesota, a Minneapolis DWI lawyer at Brockton D. Hunter P.A. can protect your rights and fight for a favorable outcome. We understand the best ways to fight DWI charges, including challenging evidence from chemical tests and challenging unlawful police stops. To schedule a consultation with a member of our team, please call (612) 979-1112.