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What does Colorado law say about sobriety checkpoints?

It is only natural that a spotlight presently falls upon so-called sobriety checkpoints, given all the media hype recently concerning holiday-linked DUI enforcement campaigns (including in Colorado; reference our August 20 blog post on the annual The Heat is On crackdown).

Readers know what those are, of course. Legions of drivers have personally encountered – or likely will encounter at some point – such police tools. Although they are deemed unlawful in a sizable minority of states, most states explicitly recognize their legality and give police departments a wide berth in administering them. Colorado is one of those states, wherein a formal manual sets forth checkpoint guidelines and rules that must be followed.

Those dictates are few and simple. Some reasonable period of advance warning must be given the public regarding the timing and location of a roadblock. Drivers must be stopped in accordance with some nondiscriminatory method (e.g., every 10th vehicle). Police officers must make good-faith efforts to detain motorists only briefly and be minimally intrusive with them absent clear symptoms of impairment. Checkpoint locations should be safe and clearly marked. No ambiguity should attach concerning the identities of officials in charge.

Checkpoints confront legal challenges occasionally, notwithstanding such rules. Although roadblocks essentially operate as exceptions to the general duty of police officers to have individualized probable cause prior to executing a search and seizure of evidence, defendants prevail in roadblock cases with some regularity. They are most often successful when they can establish a police departure from stated guidelines.

Proven legal counsel can be instrumental in helping them do that. Questions or concerns regarding sobriety checkpoints or any other aspect of a police stop can be directed to an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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