The Sarasota County Sheriff’s office will need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to its plans for roadside DUI checkpoints in Sarasota as a judge has ruled the plan for stopping alleged suspects of DUI in Sarasota is unconstitutional. The plan has already been utilized by the sheriff’s office and anyone arrested as a result of those DUI roadside stops could have their case dismissed.
This is the second time the sheriff’s plan has been declared unconstitutional in the last two years. The central point of contention for Sarasota County Judge David Denkin was the fact that every driver stopped at the DUI checkpoint was required to submit to a breathalyzer test even if they passed previous field sobriety tests. Judge Denkin ruled that there is no legal basis for detaining drivers who have already passed these tests.
There has already been one Sarasota DUI dismissed due to this ruling and more could be coming stemming from these unconstitutional DUI checkpoints. The DUI checkpoint stops that could be in jeopardy are all those conducted in May and December, and September of 2009. The DUI checkpoint plans are required so the discretion of deputies and their ability to conduct unlawful search and seizures is controlled protecting driver’s rights. An alcohol breath test is legally a search and detaining a driver a seizure.
The sheriff’s office, through its attorney, said the plan was designed to protect the public according to the Herald Tribune. The attorney for the sheriff’s department claimed that drivers who had been drinking could still be a danger on the roads even if deputies were unable to collect enough evidence to make an arrest. The plan called for drivers to be detained even if they provided a breath sample below the 0.08 that is considered to be legally under the influence in Florida.
The original plan was changed after a ruling in 2009 allowed 13 DUI cases to be thrown out. The judges at that time ruled the sheriff’s plan gave deputies too much discretion.