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What are sobriety checkpoints and are they legal in Louisiana?

Have you ever been in a row of cars being stopped by police and wondered what was going on? There's a good explanation, and it has to do with safety and traffic laws in the state.

Sobriety checkpoints are also known as DUI or DWI checkpoints. These are locations where the police or other local law enforcement can set up a stop where they can check drivers passing through the area. The purpose of this is to find drivers who are driving over the legal alcohol limit, but it's also used to find fugitives, to catch those violating state traffic laws and for checking for drugs in some instances.

There are many legal issues that surround the use of checkpoints. Some states forbid the use of sobriety checkpoints, and other states don't have laws for or against them. There are 38 states, along with Washington, D.C., that do conduct checkpoint stops. Louisiana is one of them.

In Louisiana, the use of the sobriety checkpoint is legal based on the state constitution. There is no specific frequency of when the checkpoints pop up, which means it's possible that one could be placed on the roadways at any time.

There are 12 other states where the checkpoints aren't conducted. In those states, they may be prohibited by state law or the state's constitution. In places where the checkpoints are used, the point is to help maintain and reduce drunk driving. The stops are part of a drunk-driving deterrence program in many cases.

Because the checkpoint is legal in Louisiana, you could be stopped even if you don't seem like you've had too much to drink. If you're charged with a DWI and have your driving privileges threatened, you may want to consider you legal options for representation.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, "Sobriety Checkpoint Laws" Aug. 25, 2014

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