What does the 1990 Supreme Court case out of Michigan which found sobriety checkpoints did not constitute a violation of the fourth amendment require, explicitly or implicitly as the case may be, in terms of law enforcement agencies announcing or publicizing their planned checkpoints in advance?

  • Does it require agencies or departments to publish in advance the specific time, location and purpose of checkpoints in advance?

  • Does it require agencies or departments to announce that checkpoints will be operated within some jurisdiction over some period of time?

  • Does it not require but suggest either of the above?

Bonus question - does some other national/federal authority (e.g., the NHTSA, DOJ, newer court cases, etc.) have any rules, regulations or guidelines that govern local and state law enforcement agencies' operation of sobriety checkpoints?


You are referring to Michigan State Police v. Sitz 496 U.S. 444 (1990).

It does not require or suggest a requirement of advance publication of any details regarding the checkpoints.

The dissent mentions that "a sobriety checkpoint is usually operated at night at an unannounced location. Surprise is crucial to its method." This point was not countered or even mentioned by the majority.

In this case, a state committee had created guidelines setting forth procedures governing checkpoint operations, site selection, and publicity. The mentions this as a background fact, but does not rely on the existence of these guidelines as a requirement for the constitutionality of checkpoint stops.

It does contrast checkpoints with "roving patrol stops". Quoting from Martinez-Fuerte 428 U. S. 543 (1976), the majority in Sitz said: "at traffic checkpoints, the motorist can see that other vehicles are being stopped, he can see visible signs of the officers' authority, and he is much less likely to be frightened or annoyed by the intrusion".

There are state guidelines, some states have constitutions prohibiting sobriety checkpoints (lots of case law at the state level regarding this), and some state legislatures have made these illegal. In Sitz, the checkpoints were being operated subject to guidelines developed by the Sobriety Checkpoint Advisory Committee (of the State Department of Police).

Federally, the NHTSA has guidelines on visibility and publicity towards the goal of effectiveness.


I assume the question is about the constitutional baseline in the US: there is state-level variation consistent with that (illegal in Idaho, contrary to the 4th Amendment by ruling in Texas Holt v. State 887 S.W.2d 16). In Michigan State Police v. Sitz 496 U.S. 444. Part of the court's supportive ruling is based on the existence of guidelines which limit officer discretion. The ruling is silent on the question of advance publicity.

While not dispositive, Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321 mentions the fact of advance publicity but does not indicate that it is a procedural requirement for such stops to be constitutional. Rather, publicity is important in that announcing publicly that there is a problem with DUI is part of the governments educational mission. This was before the Michigan case: SCOTUS is aware of that case and does not indicate that advance publicity is a procedural requirement. After Michigan, People v. Banks (1993) 6 Cal.4th 926 specifically held that "advance publicity is not a constitutional prerequisite to the operation of such a checkpoint". The Texas case, Holt v. State 887 S.W.2d 16, held that such checkpoints still require "express authorization and implementation by a statewide governing body".

The only SCOTUS case appears to be Michigan. They did not even hint that advance warning is a requirement.

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