DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints or DUI sobriety checkpoints, are locations where law enforcement officers are stationed to check drivers for signs of intoxication or impairment. Law enforcement agencies use DUI checkpoints as part of their campaigns to deter drunk driving. These checkpoints have been deemed legal by both the United States and California Supreme Courts. The California Vehicle Code requires that a driver of a motor vehicle "shall stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint conducted by a law enforcement agency when signs and displays are posted requiring the stop." (Section 2814.2(a)).
The California Supreme Court decision in the case titled Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321 held that "....within certain limitations a sobriety checkpoint may be operated in a manner consistent with the federal and state Constitutions." If a given checkpoint does not comply with the "certain limitations" discussed in the case, that will provide grounds for a good DUI Lawyer to exclude the evidence that is being used against the driver. The Ingersoll guidelines require the following for a valid DUI sobriety checkpoint:
1. Decision making by supervising officers;
2. Limits on the discretion of field officers;
3. Maintenance of safety conditions;
4. Reasonable location;
5. Time and duration;
6. Indicia of official nature of roadblock;
7. Length and nature of detention;
8. Advance publicity.
A good DUI Lawyer will carefully look at the evidence to ensure that these guidelines have been followed. If not, a motion will be filed to attack the constitutionality of the checkpoint and to suppress any evidence obtained against the driver. For example, one of the guidelines is the limitation on the discretion of field officers. A motorist should not be subject to the discretion of the field officer as to who will be stopped, e.g. the officer cannot pick and choose who to stop and who to allow through. Supervising officers must make decisions as to how, when, and where the DUI checkpoint will operate. There must be a neutral formula as to what vehicles will be asked to stop, such as every driver is stopped, or every third or fifth driver is stopped, etc. An experienced DUI Lawyer will demand that the criminal prosecutor provide the checkpoint records. These records must show the pattern of detentions. An unjustified deviation from the pattern which negates the neutral formula will be grounds for the suppression motion to be granted.
The length and nature of the detention is another guideline. Typically at a DUI checkpoint the officer will ask the driver to roll down their window and ask to see their driver's license and registration. The officer will observe the driver and engage the motorist in a short conversation so they can look for signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, red or watery eyes, and the odor of alcohol. If the driver has a valid license and vehicle registration, and the officer does not detect any signs of intoxication, the driver must be allowed to leave. If the officer believes he has observed signs of intoxication, the driver will be asked to pull over to a "secondary screening area" where a DUI investigation will be conducted. However, it is important that the initial screening be minimally intrusive and brief. Only those drivers showing signs of impairment are allowed to be detained at the secondary screening area. Where a motorist admits to having a drink or two, but the officer does not detect any signs of impairment, that is not enough for the officer to detain the driver for further investigation.
If you have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence after being stopped at a DUI sobriety checkpoint, CONTACT an experienced DUI Lawyer today. Berglund Law Office, P.C. specializes in representation of individuals arrested on suspicion of DUI. CONTACT DUI Lawyer Robert D. Berglund today for a free and confidential consultation.