Mythbusters: DUI Checkpoints

DUI checkpoints, otherwise known as sobriety checkpoints, are set up by law enforcement officers to check drivers for signs of intoxication and to deter drunk driving. These checkpoints are not conducted in every state due to varying interpretations of the Constitution, but their legality is upheld under state and federal constitutions in the state of California. In fact, more than 2,500 checkpoints are performed across the state every year.

The ultimate goal of these checkpoints is to ensure the safety of everyone on the road, including that of the driver. It’s important to understand how these checkpoints work and what your rights are if you do come across one.

Fact: DUI Checkpoints Are Legal

They do not target any one person behind the wheel and are instead considered an “administrative inspection,” which is similar to airport personnel checking luggage for weapons. In general, the purpose of DUI checkpoints is to stop drunk driving and to ensure the safety of the public. They are legal as long as the police follow all the rules that keep your rights protected. Those rules were set forth by the California Supreme Court and include eight guidelines for checkpoints as follows:

  • Supervising officers are required to make all operational decisions

  • The officers must be neutral when stopping drivers

  • DUI checkpoints are required to be in a reasonable location

  • There must be adequate safety precautions taken, such as giving drivers enough time to stop

  • The time and duration of the checkpoint should reflect good judgment, such as not being held during rush hour

  • The checkpoint should include clear indications like signs and marked police cars

  • Drivers should only be detained for a short period of time

Myth: You Don’t Have to Stop at DUI Checkpoints

If you come to a DUI checkpoint, you are required to stop. Unlike when a police officer pulls you over with probable cause that you have committed a crime or a violation, they do not need a reason to stop you during a checkpoint. Additionally, because the federal and state constitution supports them, these checkpoints are not considered a violation of your constitutional rights.

You can, however, avoid a checkpoint if you know there is one coming up. The one condition is that you must obey all traffic laws while doing so. Driving through a DUI checkpoint and refusing to stop can lead to severe penalties so make sure to always stop.

Myth: There Are No Signs Before a DUI Checkpoint

When you are driving and approach a DUI checkpoint, you should see signs that warn you to slow down and prepare to stop. In some cases, the road may be partially closed with lanes narrowing down to one or two. Police officers may direct you to stop your vehicle as you get nearer to the roadblock, but sometimes you will simply be waved to proceed through the checkpoint.

If you are stopped, it’s important to follow all the instructions from the officer. You will be required to open your window and present your driver’s license and registration. This is legal, and you should follow these instructions as they are given. If you fail to do so, you run the risk of being arrested for obstruction of justice.

Fact: You Have to Submit to BAC Tests, But...

The state of California has an “implied consent” law that requires drivers arrested for a DUI to submit to testing to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In order to arrest you, the officer needs a probable cause; this could be the smell of alcohol on your breath or seeing you swerve as you approached the stop, it is wholly left to the officer's discretion. The test they administer could be in the form of a breath test, a blood test or a urine test. If you feel that you were wrongfully accused and arrested for a DUI, you should hire a criminal defense attorney to look at the evidence and fight these charges on your behalf.

Additionally, even though you are legally required to submit to a BAC test, you can refuse to take it. If you do choose to refuse the test, there are automatic penalties. The arresting officer is required to explain to you that by refusing a test you will be fined, lose your license for one year and face potential jail time if convicted of a DUI. If this is your second or third refusal, then the penalties will increase.

Myth: You Have to Fight Your DUI Charge on Your Own

If after going through a DUI checkpoint, you are detained or feel that your rights have been violated, you should retain a Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense attorney immediately.

If you have any questions or concerns about DUI checkpoints, it’s important to consult with an experienced Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyer in order to learn your rights and make sure they are protected and defended. The attorneys at Newman & Allen understand how to present the facts persuasively, securing the results you need. Trust our skilled and experienced legal team with your DUI charges.

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