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DUI Checkpoints During the Holiday Season

  • September 1, 2017

    A DUI checkpoint is a roadblock that is set up by a police department for purposes of identifying and arresting drunk drivers. They’re often conducted late at night, on weekends or during holidays when law enforcement officials believe that the largest number of drunk drivers will be on the road.

    The California statute
    The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a state’s interest in curbing drunk driving outweighs the minor infringement of a DUI roadblock on a driver’s constitutional rights. California codified this finding with Vehicle Code section 2814.2(a). It
    states that drivers of motor vehicles “shall stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint inspection conducted by a law enforcement agency when signs and displays are posted requiring that stop.” The Supreme Court qualified DUI checkpoints though by requiring clear guidelines and procedures that must be followed by law enforcement. California’s guidelines and procedures were set by its Supreme Court. Those include:

    • Only random stops like one of every five vehicles are allowed
    • Supervisors must make that decision before setting up the checkpoint
    • Roadblocks should be in areas with a high incidence of drunk driving
    • The checkpoint must be clearly marked
    • Law enforcement vehicles must be clearly marked and have flashing lights
    • Uniformed police officers must be present
    • Advance notice of the checkpoint is required to be given to the public

    License and registration please
    If you don’t have your driver’s license with you, or you don’t have a valid license, you can be cited accordingly at the checkpoint. It’s against the law in California to impound your vehicle can’t be impounded though if you don’t have your license with you.

    What officers look for
    Only a brief detention of a vehicle that is stopped at a DUI checkpoint is permitted. Officers will look for anything illegal in plain view like drugs or open containers of alcoholic beverages. They will also check the driver for bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, the odor of an alcoholic beverage on a driver’s breath or other signs of intoxication or drug use. If there are no signs of alcohol or drug use, and no other traffic or criminal laws have been broken, a driver must be allowed to leave the checkpoint and go about his or her business.

    When the officer thinks you’ve been drinking
    If you exhibit any signs of alcohol consumption, your detention will continue, and you’ll likely be asked to perform standard field sobriety tests. Those would include the:

    • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
    • Walk and turn test
    • One-legged stand test

    A breath sample into an uncertified portable breath testing device might also be requested. California law doesn’t require a driver to take any field sobriety tests, and it’s not recommended that a driver consent to them. He or she might only be giving a prosecutor more evidence to try to support a conviction with. Some jurisdictions might have a certified breath testing device on site. If a driver refuses testing with that device, a judge might even be present at the roadblock for purposes of signing off on a search warrant for blood testing.

    Avoiding a DUI checkpoint
    It’s not against the law to turn around or turn off of a roadway when you’re given notice of a DUI checkpoint ahead. You must make that maneuver safely and in compliance with applicable traffic laws. A traffic or equipment violation might be cause for being stopped anyway.

    A knowledgeable and experienced DUI defense attorney might raise issues on the legality of a DUI checkpoint that you were stopped and taken into custody at. If it is found that your detention was unlawful, any DUI or other case against you that the roadblock gave rise to might be dismissed. Contact us if you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint. Your rights may have been violated without you even knowing it.

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