The Legality of DUI Stops

Are DUI stops entrapment?

Chances are you have heard announcements on the local news about a DUI checkpoint in your area, or perhaps you have found yourself taking part in a DUI stop at some point. On weekends and holidays, police officers in Arizona will at times set up a DUI checkpoint in an effort to catch drunk drivers and ward off others from driving while intoxicated. Hundreds of people will often be arrested for driving while drunk as a result of routine DUI stops. One of their first questions is often whether the DUI checkpoint is legal. Many wonder whether the stop itself is a form of entrapment. Our Phoenix, Arizona DUI attorneys answer your questions as to whether a DUI checkpoint is a legal method of catching drunk drivers.

Entrapment Defined

The word “entrapment” is an often-used term, but one that is poorly understood by many.  Entrapment is a legal defense to criminal charges. The defense of entrapment may be viable if a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a crime which that person would otherwise have been unwilling or unlikely to commit. Entrapment is often raised when an undercover agent is involved in the commission of the crime.  

The important thing to understand is that entrapment is not a valid defense when the agent merely gave the defendant the opportunity to commit the crime, as in the instance of an undercover agent offering drugs for sale. Rather, the agent must use threats, fraud, or harassment to induce the commission of the crime. An example of this could be repeated harassment by the agent to buy the drugs.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision on DUI Checkpoints

With an understanding of the term entrapment, it becomes pretty apparent that a DUI checkpoint does not constitute entrapment. A DUI stop does not involve any fraud, threats, or harassment to induce a driver to drive drunk. Rather, it presents the opportunity for committing a DUI.

Nonetheless, the legality of DUI checkpoints has been challenged in many states based on various grounds. A common challenge asserts that DUI checkpoints are unlawful because they violate the Fourth Amendment. The United States Supreme Court took up the issue in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz. The court held that DUI stops do not violate a driver’s Fourth Amendment rights because the state’s importance of keeping drunk drivers off the road outweighs any intrusion to drivers.  

DUI checkpoints are considered legal in the state of Arizona when conducted in accordance with state law. As such, drivers should be on the lookout for any checkpoint announcements and plan ahead to find a safe ride if they will be consuming alcohol. 

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