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Fourth (Amendment) of July “Check” List

Flag.  Check.

Burgers.  Check.

Fireworks.  Check.

Cooler.  Check.

Beer.  Check.

Car.  Check.

Police DUI Checkpoint.  Checkmate.

The Fourth of July is a tradition.  We all get together to celebrate our nation.  Its heritage.  Its history.  Its Independence.  And, ironically, its freedom.

But freedom has its limits.  Long ago, the US Supreme Court held that sobriety checkpoints are ok.  That is to say, they don’t violate the Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches.

There are a few rules though.

The police must first give public notice of the checkpoint.  So, theoretically, the folks driving drunk have an opportunity to know where and when the checkpoint will be.  Then the police must follow a uniform procedure at the checkpoint.  They can’t just randomly pick cars to stop.  There has to be a pattern—like every third car.  This way the police can’t just stop cars that look “suspicious.”

So if you have ever wondered how you skated through a checkpoint even though you were wasted with a half empty 12 pack in the back seat, it’s because your car fell in the “lucky” part of the pattern.  Your number didn’t come up.

But that’s just a matter of time.

There are checkpoints more often than most of us realize.  This past weekend in Columbus, Ohio, they even set up a daytime checkpoint.  That’s right.  They were looking for drunk drivers in broad daylight.  Incidentally, they didn’t catch any drunks, only a few non-licensed drivers.  But that doesn’t mean they weren’t out there.

And now there’s a new wrinkle.  Check out this article.

The national press is even interested in this one.  The cops in Cleveland had a brilliant idea.  Let’s not waste our time with a real checkpoint.  Let’s instead post a sign for a “fake” checkpoint.  Then we can avoid having to stop every car.  Here’s how it works.  The police put up a sign saying there is a checkpoint right up the road.  They then watch for cars that look suspicious—those that slam on the brakes and try to get out of there.  Those, they argue, are the fishy ones.  Why else would someone avoid a checkpoint?  They must be guilty of something.

The Fourth Amendment issues will get argued and debated.  And the high courts will eventually determine if this is ok.

But that doesn’t help you this week.  This is the Fourth of July.  And you want to party.  You want to cook out, drink beer, and blow stuff up with guns and fireworks.

So watch out for the checkpoints.  They are out there.  And they are legal.  Use that smart phone and educate yourself a bit.  Find out where the checkpoints are.  Or, just get smart, and get a designated driver.

Or, just keep rolling the dice, and put our number in your phone.  614-224-6142. That way you can get some quick legal help if things go wrong.

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