Normally, in order to pull you over in your automobile, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is a belief, based on all the attendant facts and circumstances of the situation, that a crime may have been committed or is about to be committed. This belief must be "reasonable," meaning that under the circumstances, a normally prudent person would develop such a belief; an officer's subjective thoughts before making a stop are not relevant if the stop cannot live up to this objective standard. To put it succinctly, a police officer cannot pull you over on a whim or for no reason at all.
The reasonable suspicion requirement for stops is one aspect of your fundamental rights in the criminal justice context. When a police officer pulls you over without reasonable suspicion, your criminal defense attorney may be able to get evidence collected in violation of your rights thrown out. However, there are several limited exceptions to the general requirement that traffic stops must be made only upon a finding of reasonable suspicion.
One of these exceptions - at least in many states - is the sobriety checkpoint. At a sobriety checkpoint, police officers stop cars without individualized suspicion to check the drivers for signs of impairment. Officers must either stop every car, or stop cars based on some neutral formula (such as every third car). Although justices of the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledge that suspicionless stops at a sobriety checkpoint infringe on a Constitutional right, the majority of the court found that this infringement is justified in order to further the important goal of reducing drunk driving.
In ten states, sobriety checkpoints have been made illegal or have been found to violate state constitutions; Florida is not among them. Floridians may find themselves subjected to a sobriety checkpoint, and it is not just drunk driving charges that can result.
Once a car is stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, officers can ask a brief series of questions and make observations that can lead to a wide array of charges. At a recent sobriety checkpoint near Jacksonville, there were several drivers arrested for DUI. But, the checkpoint also resulted in charges for, among other things, revoked licenses, child restraint violations and drug possession.
If you have been stopped at a Florida sobriety checkpoint, you have already been subjected to an infringement of your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, albeit one that has been approved by the Supreme Court. Do not let any more of your rights fall by the wayside as you fight the charges against you: get in touch with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney today.