In the United States, “DUI” stands for driving under the influence. Sometimes police officers will set up what is known as a DUI checkpoint or a sobriety checkpoint. By California law, police must post notice of the checkpoint to all approaching cars when the checkpoint is underway. Nowadays, you may also receive advance notice of a DUI checkpoint, which police are not required to give, through police department websites, local newspapers and TV stations, and news websites. But what is a DUI checkpoint? What are you as a California driver required to do at a checkpoint and what are the officers administering the checkpoint required to do? This blog will explain that in detail. If you’ve had an experience with a DUI checkpoint about which you would like advice, you should contact a Tehama County DUI lawyer soon. We’ll go over what happened and will advise you if you have a case or not.
What Are the Rules of a DUI Checkpoint?
The California Vehicle Code states that drivers of motor vehicles are obligated to stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint when it is conducted by law enforcement and announced by signs and displays around the area of the checkpoint.
During the DUI checkpoint, you’ll typically roll down the window and present your license and registration. You and the officer will talk as they determine whether you are intoxicated. Some questions the officer will ask themselves are:
- Do you have trouble coordinating while you get your license and registration?
- Are you having difficulty answering the officer’s questions?
- Are you slurring your words?
- Do you smell like alcohol?
- Are there alcoholic beverages or drugs in your car?
If the answer to any of these is yes, you may be asked to do a field sobriety test or chemical breath test. Field sobriety tests consist of a series of exercises approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One example would be the walk-and-turn test, where you must walk nine steps, heel-to-toe, and then turn on one foot after the ninth step and walk back, again heel-to-toe. Field sobriety tests are not obligatory and you are not bound to submit to one, but just by using the road, California understands that you have implicitly consented to a breath test. Refusing a breath test may have legal consequences.
The goal of all these tests is to conclude if there is probable cause that you are driving either under the influence of drugs or under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher.
According to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, you have a right to not be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures. There is American jurisprudence that interprets stop-and-frisk searches, wiretaps, and other kinds of surveillance as lacking probable cause. It may still be under debate if DUI checkpoints are similarly dubious, but usually, California considers DUI checkpoints constitutional if:
- Supervising officers make the ultimate decision on the administering of the DUI checkpoint.
- Drivers are stopped based on neutral and non-discriminatory criteria.
- The location, time, and duration of the DUI checkpoint are reasonable.
- The police took adequate safety precautions.
- The DUI checkpoint is clearly announced through adequate signage.