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Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal in Oregon?

Serving Families Throughout Bend
dui and driver's license checkpoint road sign

Did you know that each state has different laws regarding the use of sobriety checkpoints? Some states find them constitutional and beneficial, as they can catch more impaired drivers on the road. However, other states believe they are unconstitutional and violate Fourth Amendment rights. Let’s discuss where Oregon stands on this issue.

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Going Through a Sobriety Checkpoint

Sobriety checkpoints are roadblocks set up by police officers, typically on busy roads or areas near local bars or event venues. As drivers approach the checkpoint, they will come to a line of traffic. Typically, the police will stop drivers based on intervals, such as stopping every 5th car. Once the driver is stopped, they will be asked to provide their license, registration, and possibly insurance information. During this interaction, the police will examine the driver for any signs of impairment due to drugs or alcohol. If the officer is suspicious, they may request the driver participates in further sobriety testing. The stop will either end with an arrest or the driver being free to continue on their way.

DUII Checkpoints in Oregon

Oregon is one of only 12 states that have prohibited the use of sobriety checkpoints.

The Fourth Amendment protects American citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. This is also the amendment that establishes that the police must have probable cause to conduct a search.

In DUII cases, probable cause to stop a driver can be:

  • A driver swerving on the road
  • A driver quickly accelerating or braking
  • A driver failing to stay in their lane
  • A driver making traffic violations

Sobriety checkpoints do not require officers to have any probable cause to stop a vehicle. Instead, the process is randomized. Thus, the Oregon state courts have ruled that this method of making DUII arrests violates constitutional rights.

Police Efforts To Stop Impaired Drivers

Sobriety checkpoints are commonly used on holiday weekends, or at other times where there is likely to be a higher than average number of impaired drivers on the road. You may be wondering since Oregon cannot use these checkpoints, do the police have any other methods to arrest drivers on busy weekends?

Saturation Patrol

Saturation patrols share the same goals as sobriety checkpoints -- to deter or catch drunk drivers. However, saturation patrols are legal in Oregon and all other states.

This is when a high number of police cars patrol a certain area for a set period of time. For example, if the police are aware of a local concert, they may conduct a saturation patrol in a small radius of the venue, as they’d expect more impaired drivers to be in the area at that time.

If You Are Pulled Over for Suspected DUII

When you’re driving and see police lights start flashing behind you, you may feel your heart stop in your chest. Your mind may go blank, and you could quickly go into a state of panic. However, it’s important to keep a clear mind and remember what you should do when the police approach your vehicle.

  • Stay calm: Being jittery and a bit frazzled are side effects of anxiety, but can also be misinterpreted as signs of impairment. Stay as calm and steady as possible when interacting with the police officer.
  • Be respectful: Being hostile and/or disrespectful toward the officer can escalate the situation and get you into further legal trouble.
  • Use your Fifth Amendment rights: you may think that you only have the right to remain silent after the police have read you your Miranda Rights. This is not the case; you have the right to remain silent during any traffic stop. Invoke your right to remain silent and don’t answer questions about whether or not you’ve been drinking.
  • Don’t take field sobriety tests: there is no penalty for refusing to take field sobriety tests, so don’t take them! Many sober drivers are unable to pass these physical evaluations.

Bend DUII Defense Attorneys

With the holiday season in full swing, you may see more police officers out patrolling the roads. If you are stopped and arrested for DUII or another traffic violation, contact our team at Baxter Law, LLC as soon as possible. We offer free case evaluations so we can help determine the best course of action for your defense.