Last night I was online doing follow-up research on a Chandler, AZ police department seatbelt checkpoint that was conducted last week. I initially reported the news story on Freedom’s Phoenix but wanted additional information given that such checkpoints appear to violate Arizona law:
ARS 28-909C: “A peace officer shall not stop or issue a citation to a person operating a motor vehicle on a highway in this state for a violation of this section unless the peace officer has reasonable cause to believe there is another alleged violation of a motor vehicle law of this state.”
While I didn’t find any additional information regarding these seatbelt checkpoints, I did find something just as useful – sobriety checkpoint guidelines published by the same police department.
What was especially interesting about these guidelines was the following:
- Individuals may choose to avoid the roadblock altogether:
Vehicle making a U-turn or using escape route to avoid checkpoint: You may follow vehicle for a distance not to exceed one mile
1) If officer observes a violation or suspicious driving, he may stop the vehicle and proceed as for a normal traffic contact
2) If officer observes no violation within one mile, return to the checkpoint site without stopping the vehicle
- Individuals may refuse to roll down their window and interact with the stopping officer. By extension this means document and license checks are NOT part of sobriety checkpoint operations:
Refusal to roll down a window: Wave vehicle through and may follow for a distance of not more than one mile
- Individuals may choose to NOT cooperate after being stopped:
Refusal to cooperate: Do not detain only for that reason. Follow the procedure outlined in U-turn above.
Basically, these guidelines implicitly recognize the fact that every sobriety checkpoint stop represents a seizure under the fourth amendment and that officers are conducting investigations absent reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. If officers forced drivers to interact with them, they would, in essence, be forcing individuals to potentially incriminate themselves in violation of the fifth amendment.
These checkpoint guidelines attempt to sidestep such legal issues by giving individuals the unspoken option of either avoiding the roadblock all together or refusing to interact with the stopping officer.
Pima Country Sheriff Department guidelines I acquired via an Open Records request last year are similarly worded. Unfortunately, many individuals are still unaware of the extent of their rights when confronted with such police-state operations.
Hopefully this blog will play a small role in shedding some light on this confusing and intimidating topic. The bottom line is if you value your rights, just say no (or say nothing at all) regarding intrusive police checkpoint operations!
Also remember that laws vary from state to state so what may be true for Arizonans is not necessarily true in other places around the country.