What You Should Know About DUI Checkpoints in California

DUI checkpoints or sobriety checkpoints are anti-DUI efforts used by law enforcement to catch motorists who may be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These temporary and random checkpoints contain visible roadblocks that are occupied by local authorities for a number of hours. They’re typically set up during times when impaired driving is likely to occur, like weekends or holidays.

Here are some important facts everyone should know about DUI checkpoints.

Generally, DUI checkpoints in California are legal.

DUI checkpoints are deemed valid and legal under both the California and United States constitutions. California law links these checkpoints to administrative screenings of other kinds, like at the airport, for justification. Some could argue that the sobriety checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which dictates that authorities must have probable cause to stop you – and they would technically be right. But checkpoints are considered an exception.

DUI checkpoints must have guidelines.

DUI checkpoints aren’t free-for-alls for law enforcement. To maintain the legality and constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints, supervising officers must follow a number of guidelines. The legal requirements for California DUI sobriety checkpoints are:

  • The checkpoint must be reasonably located
  • Adequate safety precautions must be taken
  • The checkpoint’s time and duration should be of “good judgment”
  • The checkpoint must exhibit sufficient indicators of its official nature
  • Roadblocks should be publicly advertised in advance
  • The criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral
  • Drivers should be stopped for a minimal amount of time; and
  • Supervising officers must make all operational decisions

If authorities deviate from these guidelines, an arrest for a DUI during inspection may be considered unlawful, leading to the dismissal of charges. This is why it’s important to tell an attorney about all the details of your stop. A legal professional will be able to use the violated guidelines to defend your charge.

You can often find out where checkpoints are conducted ahead of time.

Police departments are mandated to publicize checkpoints in advance. Most law enforcement agencies will post information about the location and duration of DUI checkpoints on official websites or social media before they’re conducted.

It’s not unlawful to intentionally avoid checkpoints.

California doesn’t enforce a law that states you can’t make a U-turn or reroute to avoid a DUI checkpoint. This means that It is perfectly legal to avoid entering a checkpoint as long as it’s done safely. Law enforcement is advised to provide sufficient warning of a checkpoint, giving you enough time to avoid one. Officially, officers are forbidden from chasing drivers down because they deliberately avoided a stop. However, this doesn’t seem to deter many officers, who may then follow you until you make another minor traffic mistake to justify pulling you over. Things change once you actually get to a checkpoint. If you’re already there, you can’t refuse to stop. Doing so will lead to an infraction.

Charged With a DUI? Contact an Attorney Immediately

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a DUI in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. The sooner that an attorney can get on a case, the sooner they can start building a solid defense. A DUI is a serious charge that requires aggressive and experienced representation.

Wilber Law Offices has represented numerous clients who’ve acquired misdemeanor and felony DUI charges and has helped get their sentence reduced, and get their charges dismissed. They can do the same for you. Contact them today online or by phone at (707) 986-4482.

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