A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

About That DUI Checkpoint On Miami Beach Friday Afternoon

Last Friday night (12/28/2012), in the middle of the holiday vacation season, there was a DUI Checkpoint on the way to Miami Beach. When I say "on the way," I mean at about 6:30 p.m.

Now let me say this: I don't have a problem with DUI Checkpoints. They have to be advertised and they usually snag a good number of drunk drivers and others with suspended licenses and other issues. They serve a purpose, and all that. With the advent of social media, "advertised" takes on a whole new meaning. As you are preparing to go out, or go home, check your Facebook or twitter feed and you're sure to find a note about the checkpoint and be able to avoid it.

And I'm sure this one, at 6:30 the other night, caught a few post-happy hour folks on their way to dinner and some others who just can't fix their license suspension issues.

I just have a question, without offending MADD and the cops and the others who will cry that "getting one drunk driver off the street" is worth anything we have to do.

Here's the question: Don't most people drive drunk after a night out and not on their way to their night out? (note: I did hear there was also a late-night DUI Checkpoint on another road leaving Miami Beach) 

I ask this because when I started practicing law, I was placed in the DUI division of the county court. Most DUI arrests occurred after midnight and before 6 a.m. I know this because we would comment on the "odd" arrests that occurred in the early evening or post-sunrise morning hours.

Back to the decision to perform this DUI Checkpoint in the early evening hours on the one of three causeways to Miami Beach.

Several years ago I was on Miami Beach on New Year's Eve. I had some drinks. There was a DUI Checkpoint on the causeway from South Beach (the most popular of the three causeways). It took me over 2 hours to get to the checkpoint. If I was drunk, by the time I got there I would have been fine. It was a mess. Traffic was at a stand still. It was the last time I went to Miami Beach for New Year's Eve.

So let's look at this checkpoint last Friday night.

Miami is full of tourists, mostly visiting family for the holidays and the bowl game crowd is trickling in. It's the Friday before New Year's Eve. Dinner reservations are made, people are on their way to South Beach hotels to see family and friends, restaurants and bars await the big crowds with money to spend. It's 6 p.m.

I had dinner reservations on South Beach at 7:15 p.m. I knew about the checkpoint, so even though I had not consumed any alcohol, I took the north causeway to the Beach. No problem.

When I got to the restaurant, I saw the angry tweets and other postings from those who were turning around and advising others "don't go to Miami Beach tonight."

Did the city leaders know about this? Did the police sit down and say "we're going to basically stop traffic to the city on Friday night as people are on their way in?"

I doubt it. I assume the police just set up their checkpoint and if the merchants had to suffer a few lost customers on a holiday weekend due to the necessity to let the world know that you can't drink and drive, the hell with it. If people decide not to go to the Beach that night or turn around, at least the point was made.

Just seemed like a stupid idea.

 Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Share/Save/Bookmark okdork.com rules Post to Twitter


  1. Anonymous3:38 PM

    As a defense lawyer, perhaps you should have a lot more respect for the Fourth Amendment. Even Rehnquist who ruled in favor of checkpoints in Michigan acknowledged that suspicionless checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment, but claimed that its okay because the violation was "negligible." The Michigan court was still sensible enough to prohibit checkpoints under its state constitution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Dept._of_State_Police_v._Sitz

  2. Dear Brian, If you have not noticed there is a clear lack of common sense and supervision of employees of the city of Miami Beach. If they had either then the Fire, Code Enforcement and Building departments would not have so many of their former employees staying at the Gray Bar Hotel.

  3. Anonymous at 3:38, is there a list of what I should and should not support? I've only been doing this 17 years so I haven't yet been given the script.

  4. My guess would be that the police department gets the same amount of federal anti-DUI grant money regardless of the time of day they run the checkpoint. And who wants to stay up 'til 6 am when they don't have to?

  5. andrews8:14 AM

    Forget the Fourth Amendment; it has largely been gutted by all the exceptions carved out. Essentially, the Rehnquist court seems to feel that if police are involved, that is sufficient exigent circumstances to justify any violation.

    Florida is no better; some years ago the Constitution was amended to make the US 4th Amendment a ceiling rather than a floor.

    Instead, let us go directly to the merits of the checkpoints. Do we really want to nab a bunch of 0.081 drunks, who would make it home fine? Maybe not, maybe we would be better off catching a couple of 0.2 drunks, but face it: it is easier to catch the 0.81 drunks at the checkpoint than to stay awake and catch the few really dangerous 0.2 drunks.

    Also, a bunch of 0.81 drunks boosts the numbers -- making us ``safer'', where the mad mothers would yowl if the numbers dropped because the cops went out and found the dangerous ones.