Criminal Blog Week Day 4: “No Refusal” DUI Roadblocks

“No Refusal” DUI Roadblocks

The Bill of Rights and the Florida Constitution are commonly quoted to guarantee each person freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.  Over the years, American jurisprudence has focused much more on the word “unreasonable” rather than “freedom.”  Traditionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided what is “reasonable” by balancing government interests with personal liberty.  A close examination of that balancing process would require a significant (i.e., long and boring) analysis.  Here, it is sufficient to say that the importance of the government interest is balanced against the degree of intrusion upon the individual.

With regard to standard DUI roadblocks, the Florida Supreme Court held that they can be implemented without violating the U.S. or Florida constitutions.  Noting that stopping a car is “unquestionably” a seizure under the Constitution, the Court used the Balancing Test to compare the government’s interests against the individual driver’s constitutional rights.  The Court held that, “The state’s compelling interest in protecting the public from drunk drivers outweighs any minimal intrusion into their privacy which a proper roadblock might cause.”  State v. Jones, 483 So. 2d 433 (Fla. 1986).

The government’s typical public relations justification for DUI roadblocks is, “We must protect you.”  The government avoids talking about the “minimal intrusion” part of the equation.

The Matthews Law Firm, along with criminal defense attorneys in Bartow and throughout central Florida, are now confronted with a new challenge to personal freedom and liberty.  Building on the Supreme Court’s approval of DUI roadblocks, police forces in central Florida are joining other states in implementing “no refusal” DUI roadblocks.

The “refusal” typically refers to the driver “refusing” to help police convict him.  It apparently has confounded police forces when a person, in this case not stopped for any wrong-doing, chooses to stand on his rights to be free from unreasonable searches, be free from unreasonable seizures, be free from self incrimination, have advice of an attorney, or have Due Process in his interaction with the government.

In Florida, if a person arrested for DUI refuses to submit to a breath test, there are already penalties set out by law.  In Florida, the law also sets out when and how the government may obtain a blood sample in a DUI case.

The “no refusal” DUI roadblock initiative seeks to get around these laws.

At a “no refusal” roadblock, police seek to force a person to submit to a breath test by threatening to forcibly take blood upon refusal of a breath examination.  In case of a refusal, police have a judge standing by, ready and waiting to sign a pre-printed fill-in-the-blank search warrant to draw blood.

Many are alarmed at the idea of judges simply rubber-stamping police investigations based on no individual suspicion, much less probable cause.  After all, police “hunches” have long been rejected as legitimate grounds for a warrant.  However, a much more sinister danger posed by this doctrine is the idea that demanding one’s constitutional liberty is, all by itself, probable cause to pierce those very rights.

Piercing a person’s body is not a “minimal intrusion” or a “minor inconvenience.”  Coercing a person to forfeit their rights is unconstitutional, whether done at the point of a needle or the barrel of a gun.  The coercion itself is the evil.  A police force unrestrained by law and exempt from constitutional limitations does not make anyone safer.

 

 

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