Summertime Sobriety Checkpoints
Sobriety checkpoints are ubiquitous in summer months across the State of California. Summer, with its holidays, festivals, and other events and activities, can result in more drunk drivers on the road. California operates around 2,500 sobriety checkpoints across the state year round, more than almost any other state. What this means for California drivers are more opportunities to be arrested and more risk.
Summer sobriety checkpoints don't follow a different protocol than ones operated throughout the rest of the year. But they are strategically timed and placed to catch drunk drivers where they are most likely to be: on major thoroughfares, near major cities, and during times of increased drunk driving, like during holiday weekends.
If you plan on driving during Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, or any other weekend in California, expect to see some checkpoints. Unfortunately, checkpoints can slow traffic and cause congestion. When coupled with the already increased traffic from holiday travel, checkpoints can leave everyone driving on edge.
Getting through sobriety checkpoints safely and legally is easy if you follow a few tips.
Stay informed. This is perhaps the most important tip. The State of California is required to post notices about the checkpoints in advance. These notices can be found on reader boards, in newspapers, and even on social media. Learning about upcoming checkpoints and deliberating taking alternate routes to avoid them is perfectly legal and understandable.
Know your rights. If you do a little online research on this matter or talk to a few people who've been through checkpoints, you might come to the realization that most people don't have a clear idea of their rights when going through checkpoints. This is due, in part, to the ambiguities of the law. The law can be applied or interpreted differently in certain situations. That is one of the reasons why it is important to work with an attorney when facing criminal charges. The law isn't always cut and dry. When it comes to sobriety checkpoints, you have a few inalienable rights.
You have the right to refuse to answer any questions. Note that providing personal identifying information (i.e. your name) and handing over your license do not fall under the purview of this right. If you are asked anything else, you have a right to remain silent.
You have a right to deny a search request. The officer can get a warrant to search your car, so go ahead and make them get it.
You have a right to refuse a field sobriety test and even a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer test if you have not been arrested. Once you are arrested, however, you have to submit to a chemical test.
Know the risks. Most people know that an officer can arrest you if he or she has probable cause (i.e. you look drunk, have alcohol in your car, etc.). Officers also use checkpoints as an opportunity to catch people driving without a valid license. They can ask to see your license, and you have to comply. The law also allows officers to check for vehicle exhaust standards, which means if your vehicle is not compliant, an officer can ticket you.
Don't be fooled by sources that assure you the officer has no right to do anything, including stopping you. Regardless of what the Constitution declares or what your general rights when it comes to law enforcement interactions are, DUI sobriety checkpoints in California present many exceptions to these rules. Those who've tried to defend their rights at all costs by not stopping, not rolling down their window, or refusing to hand over their license often end up getting themselves into trouble. You need to cooperate to some extent, but you can do so without risking self-incrimination.
Again, the law isn't always cut and dry. The best way to avoid trouble is not to stand your ground and refuse to interact with law enforcement. It's to strike a balance between asserting your rights and being respectful and compliant. Knowing your rights and the risks are a good start.
Sobriety checkpoints can increase during summer, especially around the holidays. Stay posted on where the checkpoints are and feel free to navigate around them if you want. If you are stopped at a checkpoint, remember to keep calm and only do what is required. Learn about your rights in advance and know how to assert them without obstructing justice. If you are arrested at a checkpoint, however, speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances surrounding your case and advise you of your rights and the rights of law enforcement. From that point, you can make an educated decision on how to best defend yourself against the charges.
Were you stopped at a checkpoint and are now facing criminal charges? Visalia area DUI and driving crime defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you fight your charges and defend your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.