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How Do I Know the Sobriety Checkpoint Was Legal?

Posted by Christopher Martens | Jan 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

In California, DUIs come at a great cost to the community at large. Because of this high cost, DUI reduction strategies range from dedicated DUI patrol to sobriety checkpoints. In most instances, California law enforcement officers must have probable cause to pull you over as a driver. Probable cause can be anything from a taillight being out, failing to signal, or even exhibiting signs of intoxication. An officer may use his or her discretion when determining probable cause, but it must be a reasonably good reason to stop a driver. There is an important exception to this rule: the sobriety checkpoint. California's sobriety checkpoints, also called DUI checkpoints or DUI roadblocks, are controlled and regulated traffic stops by law enforcement officers intended to identify and arrest those driving under the influence of alcohol. They are used to not only catch and arrest drunk drivers on California's roads but also to deter driving while under the influence more generally.

Understandably, many people feel these checkpoints are unfair and not a good use of taxpayer dollars. The laws regulating sobriety checkpoints vary from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some states do not conduct sobriety checkpoints on the basis that they are unconstitutional. Some view sobriety checkpoints as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure of their property. California, however, is one of the states that do utilize sobriety checkpoints to address DUI issues, conducting over 2,500 every year. Under California law, the high cost of drunk driving outweighs any slight to the rights of the driver. Because of their tenuous legal nature, sobriety checkpoints are subject to many state and federal regulations and laws that control their execution. A checkpoint that does not adhere to these regulations may not be a valid one.

Sobriety checkpoints in California must be announced to the public in advance of their operation, such as in the local newspaper or on police station websites. Today, many checkpoints are also announced on social media streams or via cellphone and web apps. A supervising officer must make all the constitutional decisions at the checkpoint. The time, duration, and location of the checkpoint must be reasonable, thought out, and cannot significantly impede the flow of traffic. Police officers cannot stop drivers at their discretion. They must make stops at random, neutral intervals. The checkpoint itself must be properly set up so as to minimize disruption to traffic. Adequate safety precautions must be made to ensure the stop is not hazardous. There must be clear indicators of the nature of the stop and officers must be clearly identifiable. The time each driver can be delayed must be kept at a minimum. An officer may ask you a few brief questions while they look for any signs of intoxication or impairment, but if you show no signs of being under the influence, they cannot detain you any further. These regulations control how DUI sobriety checkpoints are carried out and protect, as best they can, the rights of drivers.

California drivers must stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint when requested. Not complying could have serious consequences. While sobriety checkpoints are legal under California law, if one of these requirements are not met, a checkpoint may be deemed unlawful. If you were stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and question the legality of it, you may wish to speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney. If you were arrested at a checkpoint that you felt violated one or more of the above regulations and are now facing DUI charges, you may have a legal defense in court. Your DUI charges could be dismissed if the checkpoint is found unlawful. Speak with an attorney to discuss your defense options. To defend yourself in court, you must have proof the checkpoint was unlawful. An attorney can assist you with gathering solid evidence and presenting it in a credible way, potentially saving you a DUI charge.

Are your or a loved one facing charges of drinking and driving in Tulare, Kings or Fresno County area? Visalia criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can best advise you on how to proceed with your case. With over ten years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, Christopher Martens can help you face your charges head on. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, every client gets the respect they deserve. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss strategic options for your fighting your charges.

About the Author

Christopher Martens

Bio Visalia and Bakersfield criminal defense attorney who has dedicated his life to helping those who have been accused of crimes or injured due to the negligence of others.


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