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DUI Checkpoint Rules and Regulations

Posted in Uncategorized on December 17, 2018

DUI checkpoints are common in areas with high numbers of drunk driving incidents and on days of the year when people drink a lot alcohol, such as New Year’s Eve. At these checkpoints, police officers ask drivers questions about their night and perform field sobriety tests if they believe a driver is impaired. However, drivers and officers alike are subject to regulations regarding these checkpoints, and drivers have a certain set of rights that officers must honor.

Requirements for DUI Checkpoints

DUI checkpoints are legal in California, because they have proven effective at reducing the number of drunk driving incidents in areas where they regularly occur. However, these checkpoints must abide by regulations to stay in good legal standing with the Supreme Court and California Constitution.

  • The criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral. This means a police officer can’t randomly stop certain motorists while allowing others through. All cars must be subject to the same procedure.
  • Supervising officers must make all decisions. Random police officers cannot set up a DUI checkpoint without approval from their supervisor beforehand.
  • The checkpoint must be located in a reasonable area.
  • Officers must take safety precautions for the checkpoints and clearly label them with signs, lighting, and signals. In addition, officers must identify themselves and drive official police vehicles.
  • The time and duration of the checkpoint must be reasonable.
  • The checkpoint must exhibit its clear indication of an official police nature. Police must label it as a DUI checkpoint, specifically. This is to prevent officers from investigating cars and drivers for random, unspecified reasons.
  • Police should only detain drivers for the minimum time necessary. Officers cannot hold a driver for an unreasonably long time.
  • Police should advertise DUI checkpoints in advance. This is to deter potential drunk drivers on the night of the checkpoint. Deterrence is one of the most effective results that these checkpoints provide.

Probable Cause at Checkpoints

Under the United States Constitution, police officers must have probable cause for a traffic stop. Logically, this would mean that these checkpoints are unconstitutional. However, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the dangers of drunk driving outweigh the potential invasion of privacy that these checkpoints pose to the American public.

However, the Supreme Court and the California Constitution designed the guidelines and requirements to limit invasive checkpoints and abuse of power. For example, the provision for advertisement of the checkpoint warns the public ahead of time so that they can avoid driving under the influence or, at the very least, avoid the area.

Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint

Just like all police searches and seizures, you have a set of rights that officers must uphold.

  • You have the right to turn around and intentionally avoid a DUI checkpoint, if it is safe to do so. If you violate a traffic law, show signs of impairment, or have a car defect, an officer can still pull you over after you leave the area.
  • You have the right to be subject to the same procedure given to other cars passing through the checkpoint. If you believe that police stopped you based on your race, age, ethnicity, or make and model of your car, you can challenge DUI charges in court.
  • If the DUI checkpoint violates any of the provisions set forth by the United States Supreme Court or the California Constitution, you can challenge any DUI charges from this checkpoint in court.

However, under California Vehicle Code 2814.2(a), all drivers must stop and comply with DUI checkpoints. Failure to do so can result in an infraction. While you have the right to turn around during these stops, you cannot pass through without inspection.

In addition, you have the right to a criminal defense attorney after receiving a DUI charge at a checkpoint. A law firm can help you determine if police violated any of your rights at a checkpoint and discuss options for legal strategy.