Is It Illegal to Warn Others of a DUI Checkpoint?

Is It Illegal to Warn Others of a DUI Checkpoint?

March 27, 2019

DUI checkpoints can be quite frustrating as a driver—they force you to wait in long lines to interact with police when all you want to do is get to your destination. However, these checkpoints have been proven to be effective at preventing or discouraging people from getting behind the wheel while drunk, and at getting drunk drivers off the road.

Still, it’s natural to want to warn other people that there are DUI checkpoints up ahead so they can adjust their route as necessary to avoid the inconvenience. But is this legal? Here’s some information about this topic from a DUI lawyer in Cincinnati, OH.

The legality of DUI checkpoint warnings

DUI checkpoints are publicly announced ahead of time, and in some cases, the locations are even listed on social media by local law enforcement agencies. Still, there are some people who have received fines and even been arrested for warning drivers of nearby checkpoints, so it’s understandable that there may be some confusion over what is and isn’t legal with regard to warning people about these checkpoints.

The U.S. Supreme Court actually took on this issue in 1990, and found that DUI checkpoints themselves actually infringe on people’s Fourth Amendment rights, but that infringement was outweighed by the need to reduce and prevent incidences of drunk driving. As part of a compromise, the court ruled that the location of any DUI checkpoints must be announced in advance.

But while checkpoints are not designed to be kept secret from the public, there are also limits in place as to how people can warn others of them. Physical warnings of DUI checkpoints are still considered illegal. For example, standing on a street corner with a sign that warns people of an upcoming DUI checkpoint will result in a citation, and a potential obstruction of justice charge that could lead to jail time. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the warning, police may also charge a person providing physical warnings of DUI checkpoints with disturbing the peace.

Keep in mind that in these incidents, the person is not getting charged with a crime specifically for alerting the public about a DUI checkpoint, because doing so in itself is not a violation of the law. But that didn’t stop law enforcement from figuring out other ways of punishing people for telling others about DUI checkpoints.

So, by all means, share online stories and social media posts about DUI checkpoints that have been published by local law enforcement—they’re putting this information out there because they have to, and because they want to spread awareness. But there is such a thing as going too far with your warnings to others, and that includes physical signs and other warnings that could be a public distraction or even a safety hazard.

For more information about DUI checkpoints and your legal rights when pulled over for a DUI, we encourage you to contact Herzner Law, LLC today to arrange a consultation with a skilled DUI lawyer in Cincinnati, OH.

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