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Sobriety Checkpoints

Florida is one of 37 states (including the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands) that allow law enforcement agencies to conduct sobriety checkpoints. Sobriety checkpoints are roadblocks set up by local police departments to stop motorists and investigate individuals suspected driving under the influence (DUI) offenses.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that if a city’s roadblock procedure does not satisfy the three-pronged balancing test mandated by the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, (1979), then any searches or seizures conducted at the checkpoint violate the requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The balancing test established in Brown considers the following factors:

  • The interest of the State in preventing accidents caused by drunk drivers;
  • The effectiveness of DWI roadblocks in achieving that goal; and
  • The level of intrusion on an individual’s privacy caused by such roadblocks.

All DUI checkpoints in Florida must be conducted according to strict standards, and deviation from the guidelines may result in the roadblock being declared illegal or unconstitutional. An alleged offender who was arrested a checkpoint for DUI or any number of criminal offenses, (such as driving while license suspended, revoked, or expired), that was later declared illegal may be able to have his or her criminal charges dismissed. 

Attorney for Arrests at Sobriety Checkpoints in Tallahassee, FL

If you were arrested for drunk driving or a similar offense at a DUI roadblock in North Florida, it is in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel. Pumphrey Law aggressively defends clients arrested for DUI in Tallahassee, Bristol, Crawfordville, Monticello, Quincy, and many surrounding areas in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region.

Don Pumphrey and the Tallahassee criminal defense lawyers at Pumphrey Law can conduct a thorough investigation of how the roadblock you were arrested at was conducted and fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

Call (850) 681-7777 today to have our attorneys review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free, confidential consultation.


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Leon County Sobriety Checkpoints Information Center


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Operational Plan Requirements for Florida Sobriety Checkpoints

Roadblock procedures in Florida were established by the Florida Supreme Court decisions in: State v. Jones, 483 So.2d 433 (Fla. 1986) and Campbell v. State, 679 So.2d 1168 (Fla. 1996). In Jones, the Court explored the issue of whether warrantless temporary roadblocks, which are established to apprehend persons driving while under the influence of alcohol and which stops automobiles without any articulable suspicion of illegal activity able to produce constitutionally permissible arrests.

The Court held that such roadblocks violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment Right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Court wrote, “[p]aramount among all other considerations,” the Fourth Amendment requires all seizures to be based on either:

  • specific evidence of an existing violation;
  • a showing that reasonable legislative or administrative inspection standards are met; or
  • a showing that officers carry out the search pursuant to a plan embodying specific neutral criteria which limit the conduct of the individual officers.

Moreover, the Court said, “it is essential that a written set of uniform guidelines be issued before a roadblock can be utilized.” These guidelines “should cover in detail the procedures which field officers are to follow at the roadblock, and ideally should “set out with reasonable specificity procedures regarding:

  • the selection of vehicles;
  • detention techniques;
  • duty assignments; and
  • the disposition of vehicles.

Campbell v. State –The Florida Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Florida further solidified sobriety checkpoint guidelines in Campbell, which explored the issue of whether advance written guidelines is required before police may conduct a roadblock, the Court’s analysis noted:

The requirement of written guidelines is not merely a formality. Rather, it is the method this Court and others have chosen to ensure that the police do not act with unbridled discretion in exercising the power to stop and restrain citizens who have manifested no conduct that would otherwise justify an intrusion on a citizen’s liberty. In this country the police are not vested with the general authority to set up “routine” roadblocks at any time or place. Rather, law enforcement was placed on notice by our holding in Jones that the stopping and detaining of a citizen is a serious matter that requires particularized advance planning and direction and strict compliance thereafter.

Thus, it is well established that a law enforcement agency must have written guidelines before any sobriety checkpoint may be valid. Different law enforcement agencies have their own operating procedures, but all must conduct roadblocks in accordance with the guidelines required by these Supreme Court decisions.


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What To Do at Sobriety Checkpoints in Tallahassee

Because roadblocks that satisfy necessary requirements may be conducted lawfully, it is important for any person stopped at a checkpoint to cooperate with the police. A police officer is allowed to require a person who is stopped to present any identification, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance upon request.

All motorists are required to submit to any law enforcement requests for chemical tests of an alleged DUI offender’s blood, breath, or urine under Florida’s implied consent law.

When a person is suspected of DUI, law enforcement will frequently ask the alleged offender to submit to a portable roadside breath test (breathalyzer). An individual who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher will be arrested.

In addition, an alleged offender could still be arrested even if he or she passes the breath test but an officer reasonably believes that the individual is “affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired.” Refusal to submit to a breath test may also result in a person being arrested.

Remember that you always have the right to legal counsel. You should contact a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney for assistance with any roadblock or checkpoint in Florida.


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Sobriety Checkpoint Resources in Florida

  • Sobriety Checkpoint Laws | Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)
    GHSA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit representing the state and territorial highway safety offices (such as the Florida State Safety Office) that implement federal grant programs to address behavioral highway safety issues. This mission of GHSA is, “Provide leadership and advocacy for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices.” On this section of the GHSA website, you can learn more about which states utilize sobriety checkpoints as well as how often such checkpoints are conducted.
  • Chapter 17.08 of the Florida Highway Patrol Policy Manual
    View the full text of FHP’s “guidelines for the use of Comprehensive Roadside Safety Checkpoints as part of a continuing, systematic and assertive enforcement program to identify persons who are operating a motor vehicle with defective equipment, without a valid drivers license or permit, without a proper vehicle registration, without proper insurance or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” You can learn more about officer responsibilities and procedures relating to checkpoint location selection, operational plans, and actual checkpoint procedures. Chapter 17.07 of the manual covers Drivers License and Vehicle Inspection Checkpoints.

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Pumphrey Law | Tallahassee Sobriety Checkpoint Defense Lawyer

Were you recently arrested for DUI or another alleged criminal offense at a roadblock in North Florida? Do not say anything to authorities until you have legal representation. Contact Pumphrey Law as soon as possible.

Don Pumphrey and the criminal defense attorneys in Tallahassee at Pumphrey Law represent individuals in communities all over Leon County, Gadsden County, Jefferson County, Liberty County, and Wakulla County. You can have our lawyers provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (850) 681-7777 or complete an online contact form to take advantage of a free initial consultation.


This article was last updated on Friday, September 15, 2017.