Roadblocks and DUI Checkpoints
This is still the United States of America. It is illegal for a police officer to stop someone for no reason. Yet, if you have been stopped a DUI checkpoint or roadblock, you have been stopped for no other reason than driving down the road at the wrong time. If the roadblock is held illegal, you should win your case.
Unfortunately, both the United States Supreme Court and the Hawaii Supreme Court have held that roadblocks or DUI checkpoints are constitutional. While the Hawaii Supreme Court has held that you can legally turn around to avoid the checkpoint or roadblock, the police place the road block in an area where you cannot legally turn to avoid the roadblock. Places such as Ala Wai Blvd. are popular for these checkpoints for this very reason. If you illegally turn to avoid the roadblock, the police can stop you for the illegal turn.
Roadblocks should be disfavored. Courts require that the police strictly comply with laws and regulations in conducting the checkpoint. These laws are designed to remove the discretion as to who to stop from the police officer who is present at the roadblock. We don’t want mainland cops stopping only African Americans or perhaps, here, only military or somebody the officer doesn’t like.
Yet, in Hawaii, the Sergeant is required to be present at the roadblock. If he is not present, the roadblock is illegal and the person arrested would win his DUI case. This is why the scandal a few years back regarding six Honolulu Police Department Sergeants who allegedly lied about being present at roadblocks was so important.
Remarkably, despite the fact that the laws and regulations are designed to remove discretion from the police in the field, i.e., the Sergeant, these sergeants routinely testify that they made the decision as to when and where the checkpoint would be, which cars to start, how to set up the roadblock, etc. This hardly sounds as if the discretion is removed from the officer in the field. Mr. Holcomb raises these issues in every single roadblock case.
Further, a pervasive theme in the laws and regulations governing Honolulu checkpoints is adequate notice. There must be signs notifying you of the presence and purpose of the roadblock. There must be notice to the media of the presence and purpose of the roadblock.
The police skirt these obligations. The purpose of adequate notice is to deter drunk driving and to prevent fear in the motorist who doesn’t know why the cops are stopping cars. Yet, the cops testify that they set up the only sign immediately before the roadblock at a place where it would be impossible to know that the checkpoint exists before you are right in the middle of it. The Honolulu Police Department skirts the notice to the media requirement by publishing a quarterly “notice” that simply says that they may conduct roadblocks anywhere on Oahu, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Obviously such surprise tactics do not affect the decisions of impaired drivers. If you knew you would encounter a roadblock on the way home from the bar, you’d probably Uber. It appears to me that this is a tactic of statistics and revenue generating rather than deterrence.
If you have been arrested at a checkpoint, call Rick Holcomb today. Your case is better than the average person who is arrested, not only for the legal reasons above, but also rarely do the cops have any observations of “bad driving” such as speeding, swerving, disregarding traffic signals, etc. Judges typically place a lot of weight on observations of “bad driving.”
Roadblocks and DUI Checkpoints