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No sobriety checkpoints in Minnesota


Law enforcement can use a variety of methods in their attempts to prevent drunk driving. Most members of law enforcement, whether local city police, county sheriffs or the Minnesota Highway Patrol, are alert to drivers they suspect of impaired driving. During some holidays, like the recently passed Labor Day, they may use increased patrols, combined with public service announcements.

They may even focus of certain events, such as music festivals or sporting events, knowing such events may encourage overconsumption of alcohol and lead to impaired drivers on the road. And they rely on the "publicity" of a patrol car, on the side of the road, with its emergency flashers on to warn other drivers that they, too, could be pulled over


However, in Minnesota, you won't see a popular tool used in other states, and that is the sobriety checkpoint. These checkpoints allow law enforcement to randomly stop vehicles, and inquire as to the condition of the driver.

If an officer suspects a driver of intoxication, they will be asked to perform field sobriety tests, a breathalyzer or given a blood test. At these checkpoints, law enforcement often has judges available, should someone refuse to take a blood test and the judge may sign a search warrant that authorized the blood test.

Sobriety checkpoints were authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Michigan v. Sitz in 1990, due to the "substantial government interest" in preventing drunk driving, in spite of the intrusiveness of the random stops. Some studies have shown these checkpoints are not the most effective method of preventing drunk driving, with only about a 1 percent of vehicles containing drunk drivers.

These checkpoints are not permitted in Minnesota, as they were ruled unconstitutional under the Minnesota Constitution. The neighboring states of Wisconsin and Iowa also do not permit these checkpoints, but North and South Dakota do permit sobriety checkpoints.

Drivers traveling from Minnesota to other nearby states should note that that Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska also allow sobriety checkpoints.

Source: ghsa.com, "Sobriety Checkpoint Laws," site visited September 2015

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