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Ohio Man Cited for Homemade Sobriety-Checkpoint Warning Sign

By Brett Snider, Esq. on June 19, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An Ohio man has been cited for holding a sign that warned drivers of a roadside sobriety checkpoint. He claims his civil rights have been violated.

Douglas Odolecki, 43, of Parma, held a homemade sign stating: "Check point ahead! Turn now!," for which he was cited for "obstructing official business," reports The Associated Press. This incident wasn't Odolecki's first run-in with the law either.

But does he have the right to warn drivers of an upcoming sobriety checkpoint?

Obstructing Official Business

There seems to be a fine line between protesting police action and illegally obstructing police business. In Ohio, it is a misdemeanor to intentionally obstruct, prevent, or delay official business, and it can apply to any public official, not just the police. Odolecki's sign certainly seems like it was made with the intent of thwarting police in Parma, a suburb of Cleveland, from catching drivers at their sobriety checkpoint.

While the charge may not stick in Odolecki's case (he was arrested for a similar incident in 2012, and the obstruction charge was later dismissed), this law is similar to obstruction of justice laws that exist nationwide.

But did Odolecki's instruction for drivers to "turn now" constitute an exercise of free speech or an illegal act?

Drunken Driving Checkpoints

While Odolecki and many others may oppose them, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that police may legally stop random motorists at drunken driving or sobriety checkpoints to prevent intoxicated driving. Police in some cities are even starting to test drivers at checkpoints for drugs other than alcohol.

Even though the checkpoint is legal, protesting it might be legal too. Odolecki's attorney, John Gold, told that his client's case is "interesting" because it involves an unsettled area of law and civil rights.

Police didn't take issue with the part of the sign which said "check point ahead," only with the other part directing drivers to "turn now."

You can legally avoid a drunken driving checkpoint by choosing to take a different route. However, police in another Cleveland suburb once used fake checkpoint warnings to catch drug suspects; they were stopped for committing traffic offenses in an attempt to change course.

Even if Odolecki's signage is legal, if a cop sees you committing a traffic offense, you may be legally stopped.

This legal issue hasn't stopped Odolecki from wanting to continue his mission. He told that "he'll be back" the next time there's a checkpoint.

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