What You Need to Know About Illinois Sobriety Checkpoints

If you are driving in Illinois and notice that traffic is backing up, it can be quite frustrating to discover that the only reason for the slowdown is that the police are conducting a sobriety checkpoint. In addition to being very frustrating, DUI checkpoints are also very controversial and often misunderstood from a legal perspective. In this blog post we will explain how they work and the laws governing them so you can respond appropriately to the situation. 

Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal in Illinois?

Many people try to argue that sobriety checkpoints aren’t legal or constitutional because the police are stopping citizens without any specific suspicion of a crime being committed. While this makes sense, the reality is that sobriety checkpoints are legal and have been determined to be constitutional. (You can read 486 N.E.2d 880 (ILL. 1985) for the specific laws in question.) With this in mind, you should never try to argue with the police officer about the legality of what they are doing. Instead, follow their instructions and if you feel they are violating any of the rules governing these checkpoints, make sure to document them for a potential complaint or even lawsuit.

Sobriety Checkpoint Regulations

While the checkpoints are legal, that doesn’t mean that the police have unrestricted ability to do whatever they want. There are actually a lot of different rules and regulations in place to help protect citizens from unreasonable intrusion on their privacy. The following are some important things to be aware of if you are ever faced with a DUI checkpoint:

  • Time & Location – A police officer can’t simply erect a DUI checkpoint on their own. Instead, the specific date, time, and location of the checkpoint must be determined by supervisors in the police department. The location chosen should be picked based on a legitimate concern about the level of impaired driving in the area.
  • Choosing Who to Stop – The police typically aren’t able to stop every motorist due to the volume of traffic in an area. To determine which vehicles they will stop, the police must use a “neutral formula.” This simply means they have to use a set formula that is established ahead of time. For example, the police may decide that they will stop every fifth car to go through.
  • Safety is Essential – The justification for sobriety checkpoints is that it improves public safety, so it makes sense that the police are required to implement sufficient safety precautions when conducting a checkpoint. They need to have sufficient lighting, signals, warning signs, and clearly identifiable official vehicles and personal.
  • Brief Interaction – The police must do everything they can to minimize the length of time that they stop drivers. If they can’t find reasonable suspicion of impairment, they need to let you pass quickly. There is no legal time limit, but about five minutes or fewer is typically considered reasonable.

 What to Do if You See a Sobriety Checkpoint

If you notice a DUI checkpoint up ahead, you may wonder if it makes sense to pull a U-Turn and find another route to your destination. Legally speaking, as long as a U-Turn is not prohibited in the area, you are free to take this action. In Illinois, however, the courts have determined that avoiding a checkpoint in this way provides the police sufficient suspicion to pull you over, so keep this in mind.

The police may have an officer monitoring the line of cars specifically looking for people hoping to avoid going through the checkpoint. In most cases, since the police will only actually interact with a fairly small percentage of drivers, it is likely better to just go through the checkpoint, even if you aren’t sober at the time. If you end up getting charged with a DUI or other violation, we can help you fight the charges with an aggressive defense. Please contact us to speak with an attorney and get the help you need.

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Abdallah Law

Abdallah Law has been a successful law firm serving the people of Chicago and the surrounding area for years. This success can be attributed to one thing: Our team. At Abdallah Law, protecting our clients’ rights and safeguarding their liberties is the driving force of everything we do.

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