Like many states, officers in California regularly set up DUI checkpoints. Officers set up these checkpoints to keep the streets safe and as an easy way to catch drivers who have been drinking. Once you have entered a DUI checkpoint, you have consented to the process and can’t refuse to speak with the officers.
If you’ve been arrested for DUI after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint, it is imperative that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. The ability to build a strong defense against the charges requires that your lawyer has enough time to properly evaluate and challenge the evidence against you. To schedule your free consultation with a leading DUI attorney, call us today at (310) 862-0199.
Legal Standing of DUI Checkpoints in California
You may have heard people suggest that DUI checkpoints are unconstitutional. However, DUI checkpoints have been upheld at both the federal level and at the California Supreme Court.
The courts have consistently ruled that DUI checkpoints are legal as “administrative inspections.” In other words, they are like the checkpoints you pass through at an airport on the way to catch a flight.
The specific requirements for a DUI checkpoint under California law come from Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987). The Ingersoll case requires DUI checkpoints to:
- Have decisions about its creation made solely by a supervisor
- Require officers to follow rules that are neutral for all motorists
- Maintain a safe flow of traffic for all motorists
- Be located in a reasonable place with clear markers
- Run at times when it will be most effective, to limit unnecessary delays of motorists
- Have clear signage to show its official status
- Be advertised ahead of time
Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint
While officers are allowed to investigate individuals at a checkpoint, your legal rights are not suspended at a DUI checkpoint. You may not refuse to stop at a DUI checkpoint, but there are aspects of the investigation that you don’t need to comply with.
Answering the Officer
When you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you will be asked several questions by the officer. You can be asked your name, and for your license and registration. A failure to provide these to the officer can be an infraction.
If the officer asks you directly if you have been drinking, you may refuse to answer. Under the Fifth Amendment, you have a right to refuse to answer a question that may incriminate you. You should be polite, but you can be firm about asserting your rights.
Searching Your Vehicle
When you are first stopped at a DUI checkpoint, the officer does not have a right to search your vehicle. He or she does have the right to look in your vehicle and may use anything that is clearly visible as probable cause to arrest you or initiate a search. If you are arrested at a DUI checkpoint, the officer may also search your vehicle. You can also consent to a search at any time, waiving the officer’s need for probable cause.
If an officer believes you have been drinking, you may be asked to perform a number of tests to verify your level of intoxication. These may come as field sobriety tests or preliminary alcohol screenings, such as a breathalyzer. You are allowed under California law to refuse to participate in these tests.
Your right to refuse a test, changes after you have been arrested, which can still happen if you refuse the officer’s requests for sobriety testing. California law offers harsh penalties for individuals who refuse a chemical test after an arrest. This refusal may result in enhanced punishments for a DUI conviction, including an extended license suspension.
Speak with a DUI Lawyer about Your DUI Checkpoint Experience
While DUI checkpoints are legal, your rights must be followed. If an officer arrested you, or searched your vehicle, at a DUI checkpoint without probable cause, your rights have been violated. Any evidence gained as a result of this violation can be suppressed, which can be a powerful force for having the charges against you reduced or eliminated.
A DUI lawyer can help you understand your rights and explain your legal options after a DUI arrest. To speak with a DUI lawyer with the experience you need, call (310) 862-0199 to speak with a representative about scheduling a free consultation.