Call Now 323-464-6700 for a Free Consultation

DUI Checkpoints and Your Rights

California law permits the police to set up a roadblock where officers can detain motorists for a predetermined period to check whether or not they are operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This law is necessitated by the state’s need to curb drunk driving,  a menace that is a significant cause of road accidents. However, DUI checkpoints are a little intimidating, more so to drivers who have consumed some bit of alcohol. Consuming a few drinks doesn’t necessarily impair your driving abilities, but it will not protect you from an arrest. That is why it is necessary to know your legal rights to avoid this situation. If you face arrest at a DUI checkpoint in Los Angeles, we could help protect your rights from violation. Contact us today at Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney, and let’s review your situation.

The Legality of California DUI Checkpoints

California DUI checkpoints are constitutional. Both federal and state laws have supported them. The California Supreme Court views DUI checkpoints like other administrative inspections like screenings conducted in airports. Thus, they are exempted from the 4th Amendment Rule, which requires police officers to have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop a motorist and initiate an investigation for drunk driving.

When the police stop you at a checkpoint, your rights are similar to if you’ve been stopped on suspicion for drunk driving. It is vital to remain calm and cooperate to avoid any form of conflict with the police.

Legal experts consider DUI checkpoints as a per se infringement of the 4th Amendment rights. The 4th Amendment of the U.S Constitution gives people the right to remain safe in their person, papers, house, and effects. It prevents illegal and unreasonable search and seizure by law enforcement officers. However, DUI checkpoints violate these rights unless adequately carried out. That is why there are rules and guidelines to ensure that individual rights are protected even as the police conduct random DUI investigations in these checkpoints.

A lot of people would like to dodge a DUI checkpoint by all means necessary. The problem is that many are caught by surprise, and the only way out is to drive through the checkpoint. However, it is legal to avoid a checkpoint provided that you’ll not violate any traffic rules while at it. For instance, if you’re driving along a road and notice a DUI stop ahead, you are allowed to make a lawful turn and go back the way you came. The law doesn’t allow police officers to stop a motorist simply because they turned back.

If the police stop and arrest you, your attorney can have the court dismiss your charges if the only reason for your arrest was because you dodged a checkpoint. But, if there are other reasons, for instance, a dysfunctional tail light, reckless or suspicious driving, the police could use it as a probable cause for your arrest. If, after being stopped, the police have a strong reason to believe that you were operating under the influence, you could be arrested and charged with DUI.

Therefore, if you want to avoid driving through a checkpoint, ensure that you are not breaking any traffic rules while doing it. Additionally, ensure that your lights are in good order and are on or don’t have tinted windows. These are some of the things that could cause the police to pull you over.

What to Expect at a California DUI Checkpoint

Officers guarding a DUI stop use a section of the main road. Thus, it is likely that vehicles will follow one or two lanes before stopping at the checkpoint. Sometimes the police do not have enough time to investigate all motorists. They will use a particular criterion to stop them, for example, every fifth vehicle. Stopping cars randomly ensures that the officers are not accused of profiling a particular motorist or vehicle type. If they do not find any probable cause to pull you over, the police will allow you to pass if their criterion doesn’t fall on your vehicle.

When stopped, the officers will ask you to roll down your window. You will then be asked to produce your registration and driver’s license. All this while, a field officer will engage you in a brief conversation. The officer intends to determine whether or not you are driving under the influence. Your body language and how you respond to questions are some tell-tale signs that could cause your arrest.

If asked to show your driver’s license, it is advisable to cooperate. In California, a motorist’s ability to operate a vehicle is a privilege and not a legal right. You are not covered by the 4th amendment law to withhold your identification. You have to show some evidence that you’re allowed to operate a vehicle in California. Therefore, allow the officer to see your license, registration and to know your name. You could avoid responding to the officer’s questions, but he/she will view it suspiciously and could detain you for more questioning.

Among the questions the field officer will be asking is whether or not you’ve been drinking. The 5th Amendment of the U.S Constitution gives you a right not to answer. If you’ve been drinking, it’s advisable to refuse to answer that question respectfully. Instead of remaining quiet, you can respectfully and simply inform the officer of your unwillingness to respond to that. Avoid arguments as you might say something incriminating in the heat of anger.

Factors that Could Cause Your Arrest at a DUI Checkpoint

When you are stopped at a checkpoint in California, the police will use a few strategies to determine whether or not there’s a possibility you were driving under the influence. Some of the tell-tale signs the police will be watching out for include:

  • If there’s the smell of alcohol or any indication that you’ve been drinking, like an unfinished bottle of alcohol— The presence of alcoholic drinks, drugs, or even drug paraphernalia in your vehicle could lead to an arrest.
  • How you reach out for your registration and driver’s license— Fumbling could be an indication of intoxication.
  • How you answer the officer’s questions— Trouble answering questions could also be an indication of intoxication.
  • If your speech is slurred, your eyes are red and watery, and any other indication of intoxication.

If one or more of these signs is present, the police will be compelled to commence a DUI examination. The officer will then ask you to do the following:

  • To allow for a mouth swab test— The test will reveal the presence of drugs in your system.
  • To perform field sobriety testing— They refer to several mental and physical exercises that the police could administer during a DUI investigation. If you perform poorly in these tests, it will indicate impairment and could lead to an arrest.
  • To yield to a Preliminary Alcohol Screening breath test.

The outcome of the tests will give the officer a probable reason to believe that you were:

  • Operating a vehicle under the effects of alcohol, a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23152a
  • Operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration level of 0.08% or more, a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23152b
  • Violating commercial license DUI, underage DUI, or drunk driving by limo, ride-sharing driver, or taxi

If the police commence a DUI investigation after asking you a few questions while you’re still in your car, it means that they already suspect that you’ve been drinking or are operating under the effects of alcohol or drugs. However, this doesn’t mean that you must submit to Field Sobriety Tests. Again, you can politely decline to yield to the test. It is okay to inform the officer that your lawyer has advised you against taking the tests and that you politely decline.

However, it is a little different when it comes to a DUI chemical test. DUI chemical tests could be either a blood or breath test. Sometimes they perform a urine test if you are suspected to be under the influence of drugs. According to California Implied Consent Law, it is illegal to fail to submit to a DUI chemical test. Your actions will be treated as a criminal offense that could cause your license to be suspended for a year.

DUI Checkpoint Mistakes You Can Challenge in Court

Even though California DUI checkpoints are constitutionally provided, they must follow specific guidelines. Failing to follow the proper guidelines could cause a motorist to challenge his/her arrest and all evidence gathered at the checkpoint. Here are some of the guidelines that are meant to safeguard your rights at a checkpoint:

A Supervisor Makes All Constitutional Decisions

The appointment of a supervisor must happen before the establishment of a DUI checkpoint. The supervising officer must not be one among the field officers that will be at the scene. The officer’s role is to make all administrative decisions on how the checkpoint will be conducted. The law must guide the officer.

Choosing an independent person to supervise a DUI checkpoint’s operations prevents any profiling or singling out people of a certain race or status or specific traits for arrests and questioning.

The supervisor will make decisions such as:

  • The date the checkpoint will be established
  • Its location
  • How the officers will select motorists to be detained at the checkpoint

Additionally, the public must be given notice before the establishment of a DUI checkpoint. A reasonable notice is usually given one week in advance. You have a reason to challenge your arrest if the police gave no advance notice regarding the checkpoint.

Motorists Should Be Stopped on Impartial Basis

The decision on how motorists should be stopped at a checkpoint is made by the supervising officer appointed to oversee the checkpoint operations. The decision must be made before the establishment of a checkpoint. It is not at the discretion of field officers.

For example, officers can stop two consecutive vehicles, allow two to pass, and then stop two more.

If the predetermined criterion is not followed, you have a right to challenge your arrest in court unless the officers had probable cause to stop you at the DUI checkpoint.

The Checkpoint’s Location Need to Be Reasonable

The exercise is likely to be more effective if the DUI checkpoint is established in a location that has registered a high number of DUI-related accidents. The location must be carefully selected before the establishment of the checkpoint.

Additionally, the location must be safe for motorists. It must be a place where drivers can stop safely and navigate through the checkpoint. It should be a place that can accommodate a checkpoint and at the same time allow the free flow of traffic. The place must also feel safe; it should be adequately lit.

Officers Must Detain Motorists for Short Periods

Motorists must only be detained for the least time possible to prevent delays and lessen a checkpoint operation’s intrusive nature. Thus, officers must be quick to recognize any signs of impairment before allowing motorists to drive through. If signs of impairment are observed, the law allows the officer to detain that particular motorist further. But if no signs are detected, then the officer must allow you to carry on.

If you don’t have your registration or driver’s license, you can give the officer your license or registration number. The officer will quickly check it and allow you to proceed if you do not show any signs of intoxication.

Find a DUI Attorney Near Me

If you or your loved one was arrested at a DUI checkpoint and you feel that your rights were infringed upon, it is advisable to seek the advice of an experienced DUI attorney. At Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney, we might be able to help if the arrest occurred in Los Angeles. We have a team of skilled and experienced attorneys who are willing to challenge any DUI mistakes the police might have made. Call us at 323-464-6700 and allow us to review your case and build a strong case in your defense.

Board of Governors,

America's Top-Ranked Law School For Trial Advocacy

Stetson University DUI Program

Contact Information

Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney
6777 Hollywood Blvd Ste 508
Los Angeles, CA 90028