DUI Checkpoints in San Diego

In the most common and routine DUI stops in California the arresting officer must have probable cause to stop and question a motorist. This usually means that they are observing cues in the motorists driving that are usually either a traffic violation, a device on the vehicle that is not operating correctly that could effect safety (no headlights on or brake lights not operating correctly) or a pattern in the driving characteristics, such as swerving or failure to maintain a single lane, that would indicate to the arresting officer that the person operating the motor vehicle may be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

However, there is an exception to this rule when the case is a DUI checkpoint with the aforementioned probable cause. In California the courts have upheld and given the power to law enforcement to set up and conduct systematic checkpoints or traffic stops to help identify and to curb driving under the influence. In order for this to pass under both The California Constitution and The United States Constitution the DUI checkpoints must adhere to the following 8 detailed and specific guidelines.

1. Supervising officers are required and must make all operational decisions. This was enacted to try and reduce the potential for arbitrary and inconsistent law enforcement.

2. In the process of the traffic stop the criteria for the basis of the stop must be neutral. The Supervising officers that are governing the DUI checkpoint are required to determine ahead of time, which cars are to be stopped. This process of determining which cars are to be stopped must be a neutral mathematical component criteria, for example, stopping every third of fifth car.

3. The checkpoint itself must be considered as reasonably located. The checkpoint has to be in a location based upon a high incident of DUI accidents and/or arrests.

4. There must be adequate safety precautions taken at all times. The officers supervising the checkpoint must carefully consider safety when determining the location to set up the checkpoint. Some of the safety factors that should be considered are: the traffic pattern along with traffic flow, the layout of the street and making sure the roadblock is visibly clear to all drivers who will be approaching the DUI checkpoint.

5. The time in which the checkpoint is to start and the duration of the checkpoint should reflect good judgment.

6. The checkpoint must exhibit sufficient signage as to the official nature of the process. Approaching motorists must be able to clearly distinguish that there are approaching a DUI checkpoint and stop. These warnings can be displayed by warning signs, lights flashing, a clearly marked patrol car or visual uniformed law enforcement officers.

7. Stops of motorists made during the checkpoint should detain the drivers a minimal amount of time. The driver should only be held long enough for the officers to question the driver briefly and look for cues or signs that the person may be impaired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most common of these will usually be: odor of intoxicating liquor, blood shot or watery eyes and the persons speech being slurred or trouble speaking. A driver who does not display these characteristics must be permitted to continue to drive without further interruption. Any additional or second level investigation has to be based on the grounds of probable cause.

8. All roadblocks must be publicly advertised in advance of the posting of a DUI checkpoint. As a general rule law enforcement agencies will usually post or publicize DUI checkpoints approximately one week in advance. These notices of upcoming checkpoints can most likely be found in advertising, local newspapers, local news stations and law enforcement websites.

Can I turn in effort to avoid a DUI checkpoint?

There is currently no law that says a driver may not intentionally maneuver his/her car in an effort to avoid a DUI checkpoint,, however, it must be made legally and it must be deemed safe to do so. As a practical matter, law enforcement usually gives drivers a sufficient warning of upcoming DUI checkpoints to allow them to avoid a checkpoint. As a general rule most departments often prohibit law enforcement from conducting a traffic stop based solely on a motorists intentional avoidance of a DUI checkpoint. With that said, law enforcement may pull over a motorist if, in an effort to avoid the DUI checkpoint the operator of the vehicle: Commits a traffic violation, has a safety defect on their vehicle like a broken tail light, or displays driving characteristics common to driving behavior of those under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.

California DUI/Drivers License Checkpoints

DUI checkpoints and driver’s license checkpoints have not come without their fair share of controversy. Because of this there have been some relatively recent changes to the California laws regarding DUI checkpoints and the impounding of a suspected persons vehicle.

Before 2012, the law in California gave the officers the power and ability to impound the vehicle of unlicensed drivers at a DUI checkpoint. Opponents of this measure of practiced raised the argument and the defense that such seizers of the persons vehicle were: A) undocumented immigrants that may have been unfairly targeted because they were not able to obtain a drivers license, but they needed a car for work. B) Violated the Fourth Amendment of unreasonable seizure. C) It had financial incentives, which may lead to motivation.

Because of this criticism the California Legislation responded by putting into place Assembly Bill 353, and it is now found under California Vehicle Code 2814.2, this section basically states that a persons vehicle cannot be impounded at a designated DUI checkpoint if the only offense or violation is that the person was driving without a valid drivers license.

Call Ross Law Center

At Ross Law Center our DUI team has been handling DUI cases for almost 3 decades. DUI checkpoints continue to be a hot topic of controversy and require a delicate and aggressive defense to get you the best results. Because many of these stops do not entail driving behavior the experts at Ross Law Center have handles hundreds of DUI checkpoint cases in San Diego County. These cases can be substantially different from a “routine” traffic stop DUI but still require the same amount of hard work and attention to detail. As well, many of these stops result in the loss of drivers license so its imperative to call Ross Law Center today to schedule your free consultation.