Attorney says checks defy rights of drivers
MIAMI — Drivers at drunken-driving checkpoints don’t have to speak to police or even roll down their windows. They just have to place their license and registration on the glass, along with a note saying they have no comment, won’t permit a search and want a lawyer. At least, that’s the view of a South Florida attorney.
Warren Redlich contends the commonly-used checkpoints violate drivers’ constitutional rights. He and an associate have started a website detailing their tactics. They’ve even made videos, one viewed more than 2 million times on the Internet, of their refusals to interact with police.
Doubts over the legality — and wisdom — of the tactics have been expressed by legal experts and local authorities.
Redlich of Boca Raton said his goal is not to protect drunken drivers, but to protect the innocent. He says some of his clients who passed breath-alcohol tests still faced DUI charges because the officer said he detected an odor of alcohol or the person had slurred speech.
“The point of the card is, you are affirmatively asserting your rights without having to speak to the police and without opening your window,” he said.
Not surprisingly, this does not sit well with law enforcement officials who insist drivers must speak in order to make the checkpoints work. And, they point out the Supreme Court in 1990 upheld the use of random DUI checkpoints, concluding they don’t violate constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
“They wouldn’t be allowed out of that checkpoint until they talk to us. We have a legitimate right to do it,” said Sheriff David Shoar of St. Johns County, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “If I was out there, I wouldn’t wave them through. I want to talk to that person more now.”
Police across Florida have seen the video. A spokeswoman for a large metro police agency says Gray’s experience at the checkpoint doesn’t mean the no-talk tactic is legitimate.