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Establishing Roadblocks to Control the Drunk Driver: Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz

NCJ Number
Criminal Law Bulletin Volume: 27 Issue: 1 Dated: (January-February 1991) Pages: 51-58
G P Alpert
Date Published
8 pages
The Supreme Court case, Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, is discussed with its implications of upholding the constitutionality of highway sobriety checkpoints.
The article covers the facts of the case, the three issues to be decided such as driving drunk, the intrusiveness of roadblocks, the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints, and the logic followed in the court's decision. A temporary roadblock is one of many weapons against drunk drivers in the law enforcement arsenal. The checkpoint program operated only once in Michigan, in Saginaw County. A lawsuit was filed, claiming that the roadblocks violated the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment was designed to protect citizens from intrusions or unnecessary and unreasonable searches and seizures by the government into their private affairs. Whether the seizing at sobriety checkpoints creates an intrusion or reasonable seizure was the question answered in Sitz. The ultimate question answered by this case is that the arrest of approximately 1 percent of the motorists passing through a roadblock is sufficient to provide the law enforcement community with the ability to establish temporary, unannounced sobriety checkpoints and intrude on approximately 99 percent of the motoring public. 48 footnotes