Sobriety checkpoints are conducted by the police in order to catch those who are driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs on public streets and roadways. California DUI law outlines specific guidelines that govern the operation of sobriety checkpoints. First off, the public must receive advance notice of when a sobriety checkpoint is going to be set up by command law enforcement officers. This notice is typically given by the placing of a notice in a local newspaper. Secondly, the police must follow what is considered to be a “neutral mathematical formula” when selecting which vehicles to stop. Additionally, the sobriety checkpoints must be safely maintained and highly visible, and the average time each motorist is detained must be minimized.
Every driver stopped should only be detained long enough for the police officer to speak with the person briefly and look for any signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, glassy or bloodshot eyes, or alcohol odor. If the driver does not exhibit any such signs, he or she should be permitted to move on without further delay. If, however, the officer does observe any signs of possible impairment, then the police officer has the right to have the driver move to a separate area for field sobriety testing. At that point, a driving under the influence (DUI) investigation will begin.
The courts have held that stopping a vehicle at a sobriety checkpoint/roadblock does constitute a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment. It has been noted that a seizure under the Fourth Amendment occurs “when there is a governmental termination of freedom of movement through means intentionally applied.” The key issue here is “reasonableness,” and it should be noted that not all roadblocks violate this Fourth Amendment right. However, it certainly opens the door for evidence suppression for California DUI/DWI attorneys.