Many people are arrested at the 2,500 or so sobriety checkpoints California operates throughout the state every year. For those facing DUI charges from a sobriety checkpoint stop, it is important to know and understand your rights as well as the legal requirements sobriety checkpoints must adhere to. One of the most important of these requirements pertains to whom police officers can stop at sobriety checkpoints. Targeting certain drivers based on a discriminatory factor would be unjust. Thus, officers stationed at sobriety checkpoints cannot profile drivers. This means they cannot target certain drivers and stop them based off of any external criteria.
To be in compliance with this requirement, the criteria officers use for stopping drivers must be neutral. The stops must be completely indiscriminate as to such factors as the age, ethnicity, gender or nationality of the driver. As long as they are passing through a checkpoint, drivers in all cars have an equal chance of being stopped. It is this very requirement that serves to protect your constitutional right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, which is protected under the Fourth Amendment. This right states that you cannot be arrested or have your person or your property searched without a warrant or probable cause. Using neutral criteria for stopping drivers helps ensure certain drivers will not be unfairly stopped.
Some opponents of sobriety checkpoints argue that the stops violate your constitution right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. Indeed, some states have outlawed sobriety checkpoints because of this argument. They are legal in California, though, and upheld by the state and federal constitution. California lawmakers believe the benefits of sobriety checkpoints outweigh the costs given the staggering number of alcohol-related injuries and fatalities on California's roads each year. To mitigate any violation of your rights, the stops must be completely random, thus prohibiting stops that are motivated by racial, ethnic or social prejudice. By randomizing the stops, drivers do not face unequal chances of being stopped.
This, of course, does not take away from the fact that you can still be stopped without probable cause or a warrant, but it does eliminate the chance for disadvantage or inequality based on the kind of car you drive or what you look like. In California in particular, this is a very important protection because certain drivers are unfairly profiled and stopped on the roads all the time for their presumed ethnicity or nationality.
As a driver on California roads, it is important to understand that not all checkpoints will be in compliance with the many strict requirements, including the requirement to use neutral criteria for stopping drivers. If you were stopped and arrested at a checkpoint that was not in compliance, you may have a strong defense in your case. If you are facing DUI charges, you need to speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney in your area about your case. An attorney can explain the various regulations under which checkpoints must operate and help you determine whether the checkpoint you were stopped at was in complete compliance. DUI cases can be dismissed if the defendant was arrested at a checkpoint that was not operating legally, so you should discuss your case options with an attorney.
If you have questions about DUI charges, call experienced Visalia area DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can advise you of your rights and help you take on DUI charges with confidence. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.