An ideal way to avoid criminal charges for driving under the influence of alcohol is never to drink and drive. Still, life has a way of derailing good intentions. If you have a blood alcohol concentration over California’s 0.08% legal limit before climbing behind the wheel, you may see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror. You may also encounter a sobriety checkpoint.
The California Supreme Court views DUI roadblocks as administrative inspections similar to airport screenings. Therefore, sobriety checkpoints are generally legal in the Golden State. Not all checkpoints pass legal muster, however. Here are five broad guidelines that police officers must follow when erecting a DUI checkpoint:
- Good judgment
When choosing where to establish a DUI roadblock, officers must exercise good judgment. Among other things, this means that they should place the checkpoint in a location where drunk driving is a problem. The checkpoint should also be in a location where drivers can pull over and stop without endangering themselves or others.
Sobriety checkpoints in California should be in a reasonable location and occur at a reasonable time. While there is some room for argument about reasonableness, a sobriety checkpoint on a major highway during rush hour is probably not reasonable. Furthermore, checkpoints should be as safe and convenient for motorists as possible.
A supervising officer should be present at all sobriety checkpoints. He or she should also make all operational decisions, including deciding whether DUI arrests are constitutional.
Officers must have a neutral and nondiscriminatory approach to stopping vehicles at a DUI checkpoint. While they need not stop every car that passes the checkpoint, they should use a consistent process, such as stopping every fifth vehicle.
DUI checkpoints should deter drunk driving. Therefore, law enforcement agencies should publicize the time and location of the checkpoint in advance. They should also erect signage or use other means to identify the official checkpoint to approaching drivers.
Because many law enforcement professionals view sobriety checkpoints as effective enforcement tools, you may eventually encounter one. By understanding what constitutes a legal DUI roadblock in California, you can better assert your legal rights.