Can Police Officers Search Your Vehicle at a DUI Checkpoint in Arizona?

In Arizona, law enforcement agencies are permitted to set up driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoints to look for potentially impaired or intoxicated drivers. During a stop at a DUI checkpoint, knowing your rights can mean the difference between driving away and being arrested on suspicion of DUI. This includes your right to be free from unreasonable vehicle searches and seizures.

The Fourth Amendment Protects Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives the people the right to be secure in their “persons, houses, papers, and effects” against unreasonable searches and seizures. This right is not to be violated except with probable cause. The Fourth Amendment means that a police officer does not have an indefinite right to search your person or property, including your vehicle.  

A motor vehicle search can only be conducted under certain circumstances:

  • Consent: if you give your consent to a police officer to conduct the search, they are legally allowed to do so even without probable cause or a warrant.
  • Probable cause: reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed and evidence of the crime is present in the vehicle. If the evidence in question is in plain view – including things the officer hears or smells – this can justify a vehicle search on probable cause.
  • Warrant: if a court order is issued to search a motor vehicle, it must be specific in describing the particular property or place to be searched, as well as the items to be seized. If it does not have these descriptions, the warrant may not be valid. 
  • Inventory search: if your vehicle gets impounded, the police have the right to conduct an inventory search. However, your vehicle must be impounded for other reasons; impoundment is not permitted for the sole purpose of searching the car.

The Fourth Amendment means that, in many cases, you do not have to allow the police to search your motor vehicle. You can politely decline a search request at a DUI checkpoint and remind the officer that you are not required to submit to a search. In most cases, this will be enough to prevent a vehicle search at a DUI checkpoint in Arizona.

Only Limited Searches Are Permitted at DUI Checkpoints

Note that the rules of a DUI checkpoint may give police officers the authority to conduct limited searches or inspections for specific purposes. However, this does not include a full search of your vehicle or the seizure of any property without probable cause or authority. Police officers only have the right to check for signs of drug or alcohol impairment, as well as ensure compliance with licensing and registration requirements.

What to Do if You Were Arrested at a DUI Checkpoint in Arizona

If the police conducted a full-scale vehicle search at a DUI checkpoint in Arizona and you were subsequently arrested, contact a Scottsdale DUI defense lawyer at Corso Law Group for assistance. Contact us before saying anything to the police. We can craft a legal strategy that aggressively defends your rights from the very beginning. 

If your attorney proves that a search of your vehicle was in violation of your constitutional rights, for instance, any evidence collected from your car at the checkpoint would be ruled inadmissible. This means the prosecution would be unable to use it as evidence against you. Learn more about unlawful vehicle searches and your rights after an arrest when you call us at (480) 471-4616 for a free consultation.

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