Sobriety checkpoints are put into place to check for motorists operating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, as well as motorists operating a vehicle without a license. If you do not have a valid license, you may be charged with California Vehicle Code section 12500 – driving without a license or California Vehicle Code 14601 – driving on a suspended license. If you were pulled over at a DUI checkpoint in Orange County, our attorneys could determine if it was constitutional.

Are Sobriety Checkpoints Constitutional?

There are 8 key factors that determine whether a DUI checkpoint is constitutional:

  1. There must be decision making at the supervisory level. This means that the selection of the site and the procedures for the checkpoint must be made and established by a supervisor and not an individual officer in the field.
  2. There must be limits of discretion of field officers. A neutral formula must be determined to eliminate an officer in the field stopping cars at his or her discretion.
  3. There must be maintenance of safety conditions. Proper lighting, warning signs and signals, and clearly identifiable personnel are required.
  4. A reasonable location must be selected. A reasonable location is one in which best achieves the government’s interest such as having a high degree of alcohol and driving related incidents.
  5. The time and duration of the checkpoint must be done at a time, which would prove most effective; i.e. during the evening and early morning hours.
  6. There should be indicia of official nature of roadblock. This means that there must be signs, flashing lights, adequate lighting, police vehicles and uniformed police officers indicating the reason for the roadblock.
  7. The length and nature of the detention must be that which minimizes the intrusiveness of the stop. The length of the stop should be done only long enough to determine whether the driver has alcohol on the breath, slurred speech and glassy or bloodshot eyes.
  8. The checkpoint must have advance publicity. They do not however have to publicize the precise location but should reduce fear and inconvenience for the public.

How to Avoid a DUI Checkpoint

If you see a DUI checkpoint ahead, there may be a legal way to avoid it. If properly identified as a sobriety checkpoint, the roadblock will have signs and flashing lights that notify motorists well in advance of the actual stop. You do not have to go through the checkpoint if there is a way to make a legal turn. Do not make an illegal U-turn or try to avoid the checkpoint by violating a traffic law. This will draw unwanted attention to your vehicle and gives an officer the right to pull you over on the traffic violation. Do not make unsafe movements such as jerky swerving or fast maneuvers that could put you or other drivers in harms way.

If you do have to go through the checkpoint, the officer will likely ask you for your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. Officers are trained that fumbling for these documents is a sign of impairment. When stopped obtain the documents calmly. Do not be argumentative or combative with the officer.

After reviewing your license and registration, the officer will ask you a series of screening questions such as “Where are you coming from?” “Where are you headed?” and “How much have you had to drink?” During this screening the officer is looking to see if you have red, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech or if you smell of alcohol. The officer may also be conducting a visual search of the vehicle for drug paraphernalia. If the officer believes that you are driving under the influence, the officer will ask you to pull to the side and step out of the vehicle. You will be asked to do a number of Field Sobriety Tests including a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test to help the officer determine if you are too impaired to drive. If you are over the legal limit or the officer believes that you are impaired, you will be arrested and your car will be impounded.

Reach Out to an Orange County Lawyer for DUI Checkpoint Arrests

The best way to avoid an arrest at a DUI Checkpoint is to not drink and drive. You can also take a cab or use a car service such as Uber. If you are arrested for driving under the influence or for a driver’s license violation, you need to act quickly to preserve your rights. You only have 10 calendar days from the date of arrest to request an administrative per se hearing to stop the automatic suspension of your license. Do not wait until it is too late; call The Law Offices of Scott Henry today.

Our Locations
Attorney Scott Henry: Criminal & DUI Defense