DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints or DUI sobriety checkpoints, are locations where law enforcement officers are stationed to check drivers for signs of intoxication or impairment. A major benefit of DUI checkpoints is the deterrent effect that they have on those who might drive after drinking alcohol or getting high, bringing about more awareness and encouraging people to use Uber, Lyft, taxis, or public transportation. The LAPD and other law enforcement agencies use DUI checkpoints as part of their campaigns to deter drunk and drugged driving. These checkpoints have been deemed legal by both the United States and California Supreme Courts. The California Vehicle Code requires that a driver of a motor vehicle "shall stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint conducted by a law enforcement agency when signs and displays are posted requiring the stop." (Section 2814.2(a)). If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint in Los Angeles submit our CONTACT form or call our office today at (877) 667-1205.
The California Supreme Court decision in the case titled Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321 held that "....within certain limitations a sobriety checkpoint may be operated in a manner consistent with the federal and state Constitutions." If a given checkpoint does not comply with the "certain limitations" discussed in the case, that will provide grounds for a good DUI Lawyer to exclude the evidence that is being used against the driver. The Ingersoll guidelines require the following for a valid DUI sobriety checkpoint:
1. Decision making by supervising officers;
2. Limits on the discretion of field officers;
3. Maintenance of safety conditions;
4. Reasonable location;
5. Time and duration;
6. Indicia of official nature of roadblock;
7. Length and nature of detention; and
8. Advance publicity.
Los Angeles DUI lawyer Robert D. Berglund will carefully look at the evidence to ensure that these guidelines have been followed. If not, a motion will be filed to attack the constitutionality of the checkpoint and to suppress any evidence obtained against the driver. For example, one of the guidelines is the limitation on the discretion of field officers. A motorist should not be subject to the discretion of field officers (e.g., the officers working at the checkpoint location) as to who will be stopped. This means that the officers cannot pick and choose who to stop and who to allow through. Supervising officers must make decisions as to how, when, and where the DUI checkpoint will operate. There must be a neutral formula as to what vehicles will be asked to stop, such as every driver is stopped, or every third or fifth driver is stopped, etc. An experienced DUI Lawyer will demand that the Los Angeles City Attorney, Los Angeles County District Attorney, or other prosecuting agency provide the checkpoint records. These records must show the pattern of detentions. An unjustified deviation from the pattern which negates the neutral formula will be grounds for the suppression motion to be granted. If the suppression motion is granted, none of the evidence obtained against the driver is admissible at trial. This includes the performance on the field sobriety tests and the blood alcohol content test results. The prosecutor usually has no choice but to dismiss a DUI case if a suppression motion is granted in this situation.
The length and nature of the detention is another guideline. Typically at a DUI checkpoint the officer will ask the driver to roll down their window and ask to see their driver's license and registration. The officer will observe the driver and engage the motorist in a short conversation so they can look for signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, red or watery eyes, and the odor of alcohol. If the driver has a valid license and vehicle registration, and the officer does not detect any signs of intoxication, the driver must be allowed to leave. If the officer believes he has observed signs of intoxication, the driver will be asked to pull over to a "secondary screening area" where a DUI investigation will be conducted. However, it is important that the initial screening be minimally intrusive and brief. Only those drivers showing signs of impairment are allowed to be detained at the secondary screening area. Where a motorist admits to having a drink or two, but the officer does not detect any signs of impairment, that is not enough for the officer to detain the driver for further investigation.
Primary consideration must be given to public and officer safety when supervising officers decide where to place a DUI checkpoint. Safety factors include traffic patterns, street layout, and making the roadblock clearly visible to approaching drivers. The time and duration of the DUI checkpoint should reflect the officers' "good judgment." This means that there should be limitations when the checkpoint is to be conducted and for how long, keeping a balance between effectiveness and intrusiveness.
A reasonable location for the DUI checkpoint should be selected by policy making officials, based upon areas having a lot of DUI drivers as evidenced by a high incidence of alcohol-related accidents and/or arrests. A location cannot be selected simply on the basis that it is a busy roadway and there is a lot of drinking and driving on a particular day, such as a holiday. This would justify an infinite number of locations. The DUI checkpoint should clearly show its official nature so that approaching drivers can clearly see when they are approaching a law enforcement checkpoint. This can be evidenced by visibly marked police cars, warning lights, and signs.
The final guideline requires that law enforcement officials provide advance publicity as to when and where a DUI checkpoint will be conducted. This is effective in reducing the intrusiveness of the checkpoint and increasing its deterrent effect. Advance publicity can be given on law enforcement websites, in local newspapers, and on local television stations (LAPD usually announces its DUI checkpoints on its website, as it did with this news release in April, 2018). However, failure to provide advance publicity alone, by itself, does not make the DUI checkpoint unconstitutional.
A question that frequently comes up when discussing DUI checkpoints is whether a driver can be detained, and possibly arrested, for avoiding a DUI checkpoint. As long as the driver can legally turn and take another route before reaching the DUI checkpoint, and it is safe to do so, they are not likely to be stopped by law enforcement officers. However, if a driver makes an illegal u-turn or violates another traffic law to avoid the DUI checkpoint it is likely that law enforcement will observe this and initiate a traffic stop. The fact that the driver appeared to make the illegal u-turn to avoid the checkpoint is evidence that may be used against the driver in court.
If you have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence after being stopped at a DUI sobriety checkpoint, CONTACT our office today. Berglund Law Office, P.C. specializes in representation of individuals arrested on suspicion of DUI. If your driver's license was confiscated due to your B.A.C. being greater than a .08, or if you refused to submit to post arrest breath or blood test, the same rules apply for checkpoint arrests. DMV must be contacted within 10 days or your license will automatically be suspended 30 days from the arrest date. CONTACT DUI Lawyer Robert D. Berglund today for a free and confidential consultation.