Are Indiana Sobriety Checkpoints Constitutional?

Posted on June 2, 2015

Mario Massillamany

Mario Massillamany

Most people going through a Sobriety Checkpoint comply with no problem; however some question the constitutionality of the checkpoint and whether a refusal to comply is actually allowed. When pulled over, even for a Sobriety Checkpoint, one must provide identification.

So, can a person put their driver’s license up to the driver’s side window without rolling it down to prove identification? Why you ask? Because the process of you showing identification to an officer can help the officer start a driving under the influence investigation against you. Many times when a person rolls down their window, a police officer will state that he observed poor manual dexterity from that person when they were rolling the window down, smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage when handing over the license, observed slurred speech, or the person had blood shot eyes. Also, there are differing opinions as to whether showing I.D. is enough to be waived through the checkpoint. The state of Indiana has deemed that Sobriety Checkpoints are constitutional and are not an unreasonable search and seizure.

The constitutionality of Sobriety Checkpoints falls under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Both of these provisions protect persons’ against unreasonable searches and seizures, unless there is probable cause. The difference between the two comes in the analysis and application. When looking at the Fourth Amendment, the court will look at as the following factors: warrants; probable cause; and whether the search and seizure was valid. When looking at the Indiana Constitution, however, the courts will make the State show the search was reasonable under a “totality of the circumstances” analysis.

Were you pulled over directly in the Sobriety Checkpoint or were you stopped outside of it? Even if you were stopped outside of the checkpoint then the driver may be subject to the same constitutional analysis as those pulled over in the checkpoint.

Indiana Courts will use the following six factors in determining the constitutionality of the Sobriety Checkpoint:

(1)          Whether there was a neutral plan that has been properly approved by the appropriate officials;

(2)          Whether the checkpoint was linked to a legitimate law enforcement purpose such as stopping drunk driving. It is important to note the time, place, and reason for the checkpoint in order to determine if the purpose of the police stop was indeed to combat drunk driving;

(3)          Whether the police’s discretion was proper and consistent throughout the execution of the Sobriety Checkpoint.

(4)          Whether the degree of intrusion went beyond what was reasonable. The court will look at the amount of time a vehicle was detained and whether a driver could have avoided the checkpoint (i.e. gone another direction);

(5)          Whether the Sobriety Checkpoint was safe given the weather conditions, road conditions, lighting, and operation of the checkpoint; and

(6)          Whether the Sobriety Checkpoint actually deterred people from driving drunk.

The State must prove that all six of the factors identified above were reasonable in order for a Sobriety Checkpoint to be deemed constitutional.

When looking at the rights protected under the Fourth Amendment of the United State Constitution, there is a three-part test:

(1)          The State’s interest in preventing accidents caused by drunk driving;

(2)          The amount that the checkpoint advances public interest; and

(3)          The amount of intrusion to a person’s privacy because of the checkpoint.

This broader three-part test is used by federal courts to determine if a State’s use of a particular sobriety checkpoint was constitutional under the Fourth Amendment.

If you’ve been arrested for a criminal offense, call Massillamany & Jeter LLP at (317) 432-3443 today for a free, initial consultation to help you better understand your rights.

Mario Massillamany is a founding partner of Massillamany & Jeter LLP, a full-service law firm serving central Indiana. For more information on this topic, please contact Mr. Massillamany at (317) 432-3443 or by e-mail at:

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