The legality of police sobriety checkpoints in Oklahoma

As many residents of Ponca City and other parts of Oklahoma know, police sometimes set up roadblocks in order to check passing motorists to see if they are too intoxicated to drive. If the police discover some evidence of intoxication during the course of one of these roadblocks, they may do further investigation and, depending on what they find, arrest the driver and ask the local prosecutor to file an OWI charge against him or her.

While Oklahoma does not have a law on the books specifically allowing police officers to conduct these sorts of roadblocks, the courts of Oklahoma have ruled that no law, not even the constitution prohibits this type of police activity either.

However, there are certain rules the police must follow in order for a field sobriety checkpoint to be considered legal. The reason is that police only have the Fourth Amendment right to conduct a checkpoint because they are focused on the safety of motorists, specifically since drunk driving is a none hazard on the road of Oklahoma and the rest of the country. In other words, the ostensible purpose of a roadblock is to keep drunk drivers off the streets, not to make an arrest.

Therefore, these sorts of roadblocks are generally speaking an exception to the Fourth Amendment's requirement that officers have some sort of specific reason to stop and investigate someone for a crime or, even more so, to make an arrest. However, a "checkpoint" that in fact seems to be singling out a person or a small group, or really any checkpoint that doesn't seem like it is a safety check like going through airport security, can be challenged in court.

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