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Michigan Dept. of State Police vs. Sitz Case Brief: Sobriety Checkpoints and the 4th Amendment

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Sobriety Checkpoints and the 4th Amendment

Sobriety Checkpoints and the 4th Amendment. Photo: Versageek


The Police force in the state of Michigan adopted the practice of conducting random sobriety checkpoints in an effort to catch drunk drivers and encourage sober driving. During this operation, all drivers passing through would be stopped and questioned. If an officer suspected the driver could be intoxicated, they were sent to participate in a field sobriety test.

A group of Michigan residents decided to sue the Michigan Dept. of State on the grounds that their Fourth Amendment right prohibiting unwarranted search and seizure was being violated.


Does the Fourth Amendment allow police officers to stop unsuspecting and innocent drivers in the search for intoxicated individuals? Can sobriety checkpoints and the 4th Amendment co-exist?

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Final Ruling

On June 14, 1990, the Supreme Court held that Michigan had a “substantial government interest” to advance in stopping drunk driving, and that this technique was rationally related to achieving that goal, and the element of surprise is crucial to the method’s success. In addition, the court ruled that the impact to drivers, such as being later to their destination, was negligible.

The court ruled that having a short conversations with drivers to determine if they are intoxicated is a reasonable search method, and that other, more obtrusive or invasive search methods would be treated differently.

What Does Michigan Dept. of State Police vs. Sitz Mean for You?

This means that you may be forced to stop at a sobriety checkpoint at some time, and will be required to cooperate with police regardless of whether or not you’ve been drinking. Ultimately, despite the federal decision, Michigan is one of 12 states that have effectively banned sobriety checkpoints. States that prohibit checkpoints based on interpretation of state Constitution or statutes include: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana (permitting only safety spotchecks), Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Alaska does not conduct sobriety checkpoints because of a lack of authority, and Texas has banned them because of their own unique, quintessentially Texan interpretation of the federal Constitution (because Texas).

For a complete list of states and their individual sobriety checkpoint laws, visit

Hopefully, you will never drink and drive, and hopefully, you can be patient with these checkpoints if they are carried out in your state. We’re sure you‘d like to get drunk drivers off the road just as much as the police would. Always make sure you have a safe ride, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

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  • Tyler, Esq.

    This article, although correct on substance, is misleading. First, the date that this case was decided is not included. Second, and most importantly, the writer fails to address the fact that Michigan’s Supreme Court has ruled that DUI checkpoints in Michigan are illegal under our State Constitution.

    • The News Wheel

      Thanks for the input. We have added in a complete list of the 12 states who have banned checkpoints under state Constitutional law/state statutes/inane interpretation of federal law (i.e. Texas), and we’ve also included the date of the decision (though we’d probably call that kind of thing pertinent information that was left out as opposed to something that would somehow cause the post to be misleading).