The Chicago Police Department has announced that starting Tuesday, April 7 at 10 pm they will be conducting “roadside safety checks” to educate drivers on the importance of the shelter at home order currently in place in Illinois.
The checkpoints will occur in every police district in Chicago and will go until approximately 2 am. Each driver that is stopped at a checkpoint will be given a flyer with information on what is permitted travel during the stay at home order, and what is not.
These checkpoints raise a very interesting point: will they also be used to detect whether someone is driving under the influence? Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicago Police routinely ran checkpoints to detect DUI drivers. However, there are specific rules in place for checkpoints and whether or not they are permissible for certain purposes.
While Illinois courts have allowed checkpoints to look for DUI drivers, they have not allowed them for general purposes of looking for criminal activity. They also have not been allowed simply to check for vehicle stickers. They have been allowed to check for a valid license, insurance, and registration. Generally, any roadblock must serve the public interest, but this must be balanced with the intrusion to people for being stopped. They also must be publicized so the public knows they are going to occur.
The question of whether it is a legal checkpoint to stop people simply to educate them about the shelter in place order has never been decided. The fact the checkpoints are occurring late at night seems to indicate they might also be used to detect DUI drivers. Because of the strict rules about checkpoints, it’s possible this may not be a valid stop and the person who gets arrested for a DUI as a result of being stopped at the checkpoint could have their case thrown out if the checkpoint is invalid.
There is no doubt that the novel coronavirus has caused unprecedented things to happen that have never happened before such as the shutdown of the Cook County courthouses and the tolling of the defendant’s speedy trial rights. It remains to be seen how courts will handle some of these things, and the checkpoints are no different. However, if you’ve been stopped and arrested at a checkpoint or roadblock, call a lawyer right away to discuss your options.