DUI Checkpoints

Many Californians are surprised to learn that in 12 states DUI checkpoints are not conducted. Some states prohibit them by state law or Constitution (or interpretation of state law or Constitution). Texas prohibits them based on its interpretation of the United States Constitution. In Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321, the California Supreme Court held DUI checkpoints are legal so long as they are operated in a manner consistent with the federal and state Constitutions.

In order for a DUI checkpoint to be valid, the decision to create it must have been made by a supervisory law enforcement officer. No offer in the field can make such a decision. This requirement prevents potential capricious enforcement.

Additionally, officers in the field cannot stop just any individual who catches their notice. Instead, they must use a neutral formula, such as stopping every driver or every third, fifth, or tenth driver. Only an unbiased, mathematical selection criteria should be used.

By law, officals can only select sites that would be the most effective in catching potential lawbreaksers. For example, Commonwealth Ave. in downtown Fullerton has a high incedence of drunk drivers and arrests, which means it would likely be a location police would choose for a DUI checkpoint.

The DUI checkpoint must be operated at a reasonable time and continue for a reasonable duration. The checkpoint should be established with high visibility, including warning signs, flashing lights, adequate lighting, police vehicles and the presence of uniformed officers. Each motorist stopped should be detained only long enough for the officer to question the driver briefly and to look for signs of intoxication, such as alcohol on the breath, slurred speech, and glassy or bloodshot eyes. If the driver does not display signs of impairment, he or she should be permitted to drive on without further delay.

Despite belief to the contrary, it is not illegal to avoid a DUI checkpoint! If, however, you break a traffic law while avoiding a DUI checkpoint, then the officer has probable cause to pull you over for the traffic infraction. You may avoid DUI checkpoints, but don't violate any traffic laws while doing so.

If you are arrested at a DUI checkpoint, contact me immediately. If the officers did not follow the proper requirements, your case could potentially be dismissed!

(657) 222-6298 for a free, confidential consultation.