Sometime in mid-January we told you about a controversial DUI attorney in Florida who is making waves all over the country with his new, and highly revolutionary advice on how to deal with police at DUI checkpoints. So, in the wake of all the heated discussions that this topic has created, people are wondering if what this lawyer is suggesting is actually unconstitutional in Michigan?
As it happens, the answer is yes.
Unsure of why or how? We’ll try to break it down for you….
Warren Redlich, the founder of Fair DUI and a practicing attorney in Florida, feels strongly that DUI checkpoints are unconstitutional as they are a form of invasive search, violating fourth amendment rights. He also has gone on record to say that a number of completely sober people have been charged with drunk driving in the past, which is unacceptable.
So he came up with the Fair DUI flyer, which a person can press against their window telling the officer that they will remain silent and that they want their attorney. All license and registration information is attached to the outside of the window in a plastic baggie, making it available to the police without the driver having to have any interaction of any kind with the law. But this is where it gets sticky….
On June 14th, 1990, a Michigan Supreme Court case addressed this very issue and ruled in favor of the police. The case, Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, took place because Rick Sitz who is a licensed driver in the state, challenged the MSP’s plan to implement highway sobriety checkpoints. He claimed that the checkpoints, which would be randomly selecting drivers for sobriety checks, were a violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as they were conducted without a warrant and without any probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
But the Supreme Court Justices were not all swayed by this argument. According to the Court, “No one can seriously dispute the magnitude of the drunken driving problem or the States’ interest in eradicating it.” Which resulted in a six to three vote for the MSP’s right to conduct random sobriety checks on motorists within the state of Michigan.
Apparently both the justices and the challengers agreed on the fact that the sobriety checkpoint stops conducted by police officers constituted “seizures under the Fourth Amendment.”. However, what they were not able to agree on was whether or not these seizures were “reasonable” as defined by the law.
Although it has been more than 20 years since this decision was made, and things do change, we would recommend that anyone think very, very carefully before choosing to employ Mr. Redlich’s tactics here in Michigan. Current Michigan law allows officers to conduct randomized sobriety checks on drivers in the interest of public safety. Refusing to comply with this can land you in some very hot water, so to speak.