Car accidents are a leading cause of death among adults in the United States. The most common cause of car crashes is driving under alcohol or other drugs. Due to the high fatality rates of DUI accidents, the Stat of California has put in measures to help curb this behavior on its roadways. One of the standard methods that law enforcement is using to crack down on drunk driving is DUI checkpoints.
A DUI checkpoint is a temporary barricade on the road set aside to stop drivers and check for signs of drunk driving. If you exhibit any signs of drunk driving like bloodshot eyes, alcohol odor in your vehicle, or visible alcohol in your car, the officers will begin a complete DUI investigation. Most of the evidence presented in a DUI criminal case is based on what happens at the DUI stop. If you haven't done anything wrong, you will have nothing to worry about. However, if you are drunk driving, you will be arrested and charged. Therefore, you need to contact a lawyer immediately.
There is so much that could go wrong at a DUI checkpoint which could eventually lead to a DUI conviction. Therefore, you must know how to act to avoid compromising your case. The following are some tips that can help you move through the DUI checkpoint smoothly while preserving your rights:
Slow Down when you Approach the Checkpoint
DUI checkpoints are distinctively marked. Therefore, as you approach the checkpoint, you must slow down. Your driving conduct may be one of the first signs of drunk driving that the traffic officer notices. Therefore, speeding would put you in the wrong place with police suspicions.
You need to roll down your window and cooperate with the officer when you stop. Hesitation to do this may increase the officer's suspicion of your drunk driving.
Exercise your Right to Remain Silent
When the police officers stop you at a DUI checkpoint, they will ask you many questions. It is essential to understand that you have a right to remain silent until you have legal counsel. Therefore, unless the officer asks you anything about your license, vehicle registration, or proof of insurance, it would be wise to remain silent.
Sometimes, the officer will ask you questions about where you are coming from, your alcohol use history, and how much alcohol you took before driving. You need to respectfully decline to answer these questions and let the officers figure the situation out. Any information you provide to the police could be twisted and presented against you if you are arrested for DUI.
Avoid Volunteering for a Search
Although a DUI checkpoint is legal in California, there is a limitation on what the officers can do. Additionally, all your rights must be respected at this point. Regardless of this limitation, some police officers can push further by either trying to search your vehicle or sticking a flashlight through the open window to look around. Even when you have had a few drinks, consenting to a search is not good. A DUI checkpoint is only meant for an investigation and not to search your vehicle. Therefore, you can ask them not to invade your privacy.
Have all your Documentation Ready
DUI checkpoints in California are often very random. While you can turn back to avoid it, it is not a wise idea. Making a U-turn to evade a DUI checkpoint could create suspicions around your situation. This will result in much more scrutiny for DUI and other driving offenses. Instead of turning back, you should remain calm and have all your documents ready. Some of the common documents you will need to produce at the DUI checkpoint include your driver's license, vehicle registration documents, and proof of insurance.
When these documents are ready, you will not fumble or act tense when the officer asks for them. While fumbling may result from being nervous, the traffic officers could take it as a sign of intoxication.
The primary purpose of a DUI checkpoint is to ensure the safety of the roads since DUI accidents have been on the rise in the state. Therefore, you must remain patient when you come across one. As long as you have not been drinking before driving, you will be out of the checkpoint within a few minutes.
Note any Form of Police Misconduct
Even when you are suspected of drunk driving in California, you have rights that must be followed. Most violations of your rights during a DUI investigation occur at a DUI checkpoint. When an officer violates your rights, you can file a petition to exclude the evidence they collect from your case. Some of the most common violations you need to look out for and note at the checkpoint include:
The location of the checkpoint is not reasonable. When determining the location of a DUI checkpoint, the traffic officers are likely to go for a location with a high number of registered DUI cases and accidents. While this is reasonable, the law requires that the DUI checkpoint be set up at a safe location. It must be a well-lit area where you can stop without fearing for your safety. By arguing that the checkpoint was in an unsafe place, you can have the evidence collected at this point thrown out.
Coercion to take tests. The field sobriety test is not mandatory after a DUI stop. Therefore, you can refuse to take it. Although there are serious consequences that accompany a refusal to take the breathalyzer test, you have a right to refuse the tests. If the officers threaten or coerce you to take the tests, you can present this as a defense to your case. Any evidence collected through coercion may not be admissible in court.
Lack of probable cause for arrest. If the police officers are convinced that you were drunk driving at the DUI checkpoint, you will be arrested and taken to the police station for further investigations. Before arresting you for a DUI, the officers must have probable cause to believe that you were drunk driving. This could be from your conduct, failing the field sobriety test, or having a blood alcohol content that exceeds the legal limit.
Failing to read your Miranda rights. When the police officers find probable cause to arrest you, they must inform you of your rights. This includes the right to remain silent and a right to seek legal representation. If the officers go ahead to interrogate you about the DUI without reading these rights, you can challenge the evidence collected at the checkpoint.
By noting any of the above violations, you can explain this to your attorney and help in building a solid defense for your case.
Understand that Field Sobriety Tests Are Optional
The first step in conducting a DUI investigation at the DUI checkpoint is the field sobriety test. It is essential to understand that a field sobriety test is not mandatory, and you have a right to refuse it. Common forms of field sobriety tests include following objects with your eyes or walking in a straight line. While the field sobriety test tests your balance and coordination, they are not reliable pieces of evidence to prove drunk driving.
Since the sobriety test is carried out before the breathalyzer test, the fifteen minutes for the field sobriety test could create more time for alcohol absorption. This will show up in your chemical tests. While refusing the sobriety test is legal, you need to do it politely to avoid creating attention to yourself.
Don't Refuse a Breath Test
Whether you take or refuse a field sobriety test, the officers will proceed to administer a breathalyzer test. A breathalyzer is a device where you blow in, and it converts the alcohol amount in your breath into a percentage. If the breathalyzer test results indicate that your BAC exceeds the legal limit, you will face an arrest and charges for drunk driving.
Unlike the field sobriety test, refusing to take the breath test is not legal. Too often, drunk drivers assume that refusing the breath test will not produce a BAC result to act as a basis for their DUI case. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. California is an implied consent state. When you hold a valid driver's license in this state, you consent to take breath and blood tests during DUI checkpoints or after a DUI arrest.
Therefore, refusing to take this test could have the following consequences:
The results of a BAC are the most crucial piece of evidence in a DUI case. Therefore, if you fail to submit to the breathalyzer test, you will be taken to the police station to administer a blood test.
You will be charged for failure to submit to chemical tests and face a mandatory driver's license suspension. A conviction for DUI attracts severe legal consequences, with driver's license suspension being the most severe. Every individual who faces a DUI arrest risks facing a license suspension. However, you have a right to protect against the suspension by winning your criminal case or fighting the suspension at the DMV hearing. If you fail to submit to the breath tests, your license will be subject to automatic suspension.
Additional jail time. Refusing to take a breathalyzer test does not protect you from a DUI conviction. During a DUI trial, the prosecution could use your refusal to submit to the chemical tests to convince the court to impose a stiffer sentence.
Do not Incriminate yourself
Whatever information you provide at a DUI checkpoint can be used against you in a DUI criminal case. Therefore, you need to be mindful of the information you disclose to the traffic officers. Learning that you are being investigated for DUI could be a challenging time. For this reason, you could panic and be tempted to disclose information regarding prior use of alcohol.
Taking a glass of wine at dinner does not mean that you will face an arrest for drunk driving. It would be best to wait for the officers to take their tests and determine your blood alcohol content.
Contact your Attorney
When the traffic officer conducts the field sobriety and breathalyzer test, they can either let you go or arrest you for drunk driving. Drunk driving is a serious offense whose conviction attracts severe legal consequences. Fighting your charges and protecting your rights from the DUI checkpoint is paramount in ensuring a favorable outcome.
Issues of a DUI arrest can be complicated, especially when it is your first time. Therefore, seeking the guidance of an experienced DUI defense attorney is vital. Your attorney will guide you on how to proceed with the process. When you call your attorney, you must inform them of any information you disclose to the arresting officers. This will help the attorney figure out how to structure your defense.
Find a Skilled DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
A DUI checkpoint is a roadblock set up by traffic police to assess drunk driving behavior on the roads. When you encounter a roadblock, the officers may ask you for your license as they assess any signs of intoxication. If you do not exhibit any of the signs of drunk driving, you will be allowed to move along. However, if the officer suspects that you were drunk driving, they will investigate by administering the field sobriety test and the breathalyzer test.
The perceived risk of a DUI arrest and prosecution could significantly affect how you act at the checkpoint. Sometimes, your actions could worsen your situation and increase the likelihood of a conviction. If you face an arrest for drunk driving at a DUI checkpoint, you must seek the services of a skilled DUI defense attorney.
At Jonathan Franklin DUI, we have extensive skills and experience defending DUI cases. Our attorneys will work to attack all the evidence collected at the DUI checkpoint to ensure the best possible outcome in your DUI case. If you face a DUI arrest and criminal charges in Los Angeles, CA, you will need our expertise. Call us today at 323-464-6700.