Articles Posted in 4th Amendment

In a previous entry on this Blog, I wrote about the passage of new Nevada State laws legalizing personal use marijuana and the possession of less than 1 oz. of marijuana – – – and further discussed the difference between “impairment” vs. “per se” DUI laws.

Nevada, unlike many states, has passed “per se” DUI laws setting acceptable levels of the presence of a drug in one’s system, over which the law presumes the driver is too impaired to drive safely. In many states a driver who is alleged to be under the influence of marijuana typically can’t be convicted of a “per se” DUI.  In those states, drivers are usually charged with a theory of impairment – – – wherein the prosecutor has to point to documented evidence that the driver cannot perform driving related tasks safely.  The law requires prosecutors in these jurisdictions to show that marijuana consumption had an effect on the driver and not simply prove up the presence of a specific amount of THC in the driver’s system.  Nevada commonly charges the “impairment” theory as their first theory of criminal liability in a DUI case.  In Las Vegas and throughout the State of Nevada, prosecutors have the burden of proving the person charged (the Defendant) is impaired “to a degree that rendered him incapable of safely driving or exercising actual physical control of a vehicle.” (NRS§ 484C.105 (2016)). In the States that ONLY charge the impairment theory of Marijuana DUI there has been no need to take action in changing their DUI laws following the recent trend towards the decriminalization of marijuana.

Nevada is the exception to this general rule however. Nevada is one of the small number of states that have legislation on the book utilizing the “per se” DUI theory to DUI of marijuana.  In Nevada a driver can be convicted of DUI simply by driving with a minimum concentration of the active agent in marijuana (“THC”) or the breakdown metabolite of THC in their system as detected through a blood test.

As outlined in previous posts to this blog, DUI checkpoints remain a commonly used and effective way for the police to stop you and investigate DUI allegations. For instance, the LVMPD has just announced that they will be conducting a DUI Checkpoint between 7:00 P.M. on Tuesday, April 19, 2016 through 3 A.M. on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

While the general public may not be aware that within the last six (6) months, the intersection of Rampart and Charleston has had 87 traffic incidents and two fatal accidents. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department took note of that and will be having a sobriety checkpoint at that intersection as outlined above.

A driving under the influence checkpoint or roadblock involves the stopping of all vehicles traveling on a street or highway. A police officer, or many police officers, may be seen signaling for cars to pull over to the side of the road or being stopped in the middle of the road. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department usually conducts check points during the hours of 6 P.M. – 2 A.M. on a given date, quite often a holiday or time when it is believed impaired driving will be prevalent.  Typically, police checkpoints in Las Vegas, Henderson, North Law Vegas or the surrounding communities will occur on busy, well-traveled streets.  Law enforcement will keep records on checkpoints and previous checkpoints done by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department have resulted in as many as 1,500 plus vehicles passing through such a road block.  For example, on Super Bowl Sunday 2015, 1,523 vehicles passed through the pre noticed LVMPD checkpoint.  Each year, DUI checkpoints account for hundreds of arrests for allegation of Driving Under the Influence in the Las Vegas Valley.

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It is no secret that one of the most aggressively investigated and charged crimes in Nevada is Driving Under the Influence, also known as “DUI.” One of the more commonly used techniques to identify and arrest alleged drunk drivers is the “DUI checkpoint.”

When the topic of DUI arrests and DUI checkpoints is brought up to me in conversation, one of the more common questions I am asked is “wait a second…how are DUI checkpoints legal?” And, “are these DUI check points even constitutional?”

While there are lots of variables and the individual facts of each case are unique, in most situations, if a member of law enforcement desires to stop a vehicle driving on a roadway, that law enforcement officer needs to have “probable cause” … or a belief that it is likely that a crime has been committed and that the driver of that vehicle committed that crime. The most common example is when a police officer conducts a traffic stop and pulls someone over for the commission of a moving violation, or “traffic offense” in the officer’s presence.  This gives the officer “probable cause” to stop the driver.

In the case if a DUI checkpoint however, the situation is different. While law enforcement does stop drivers at checkpoints, this method of stopping drivers does not require probable cause as does the typical traffic stop.  Continue reading