The simple answer is yes, DUI checkpoints are legal in California. However, there are guidelines for the procedures at these checkpoints for drivers and law enforcement. Motorists must stop and submit to a sobriety test when they see signs and displays requiring a stop.
Law enforcement uses these checkpoints for other purposes, to find and ticket motorists for other infractions. When you feel you may have been treated unfairly or illegally at a DUI checkpoint, the Simmrin Law Group is here to help. If you face a DUI charge, you must speak to our DUI lawyers immediately.
Where Are DUI Checkpoints?
Law enforcement does not advertise when and where they will have a DUI checkpoint because they know drivers will avoid the area. However, it is easier to find out about a DUI checkpoint in the digital age. Some agencies will go as far as sending official releases about upcoming checkpoints.
There is no requirement for prior public notice, but there is a requirement to post information about roadblocks while they happen. You can learn about DUIs through local newspapers, police department websites, and local tv stations. However, most people find out about DUI checkpoints in California when they approach them.
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What Are the Requirements for a DUI Checkpoint?
State law outlines several requirements for California DUI checkpoints, and you must take legal action when law enforcement officers fail to comply. Some of these regulations include the following:
- The criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral.
- Checkpoints must be reasonably located.
- Roadblocks should be publicly advertised.
- A supervising officer must make all operational decisions.
- Safety precautions must be taken.
- The duration of the checkpoint should reflect good judgment.
- There must be sufficient signage indicating the checkpoint.
- A motorist can only be detained for a minimum amount of time.
All sobriety checkpoints in California must adhere to these requirements, and when they do not, you cannot face charges. To ensure you fight wrongful charges or non-compliance, you should speak to our DUI attorneys immediately.
What Can I Expect at a DUI Checkpoint?
Law enforcement officers will stop motorists at a DUI checkpoint and have a conversation to determine if they are under the influence. The officer will ask motorists to roll down their windows and provide their license and registration. They will look for the following indicators to determine if you are under the influence:
- Fumbling to provide documents
- The smell of alcohol
- Trouble answering questions
- Alcoholic beverages, drugs, or other paraphernalia in the vehicle
- Slurred speech
- Red or watery eyes
- Signs of physical impairment
If you exhibit any of these signs, the officer can require additional tests like a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) or a California DUI field sobriety test (FST). Depending on the test results, you can be arrested for the following:
- Driving under the influence of drugs
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Driving with a BAC of .08 or greater
You need to speak to the DUI lawyers at the Simmrin Law Group immediately if you are under arrest for any of the above reasons.
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Can I Avoid a DUI Checkpoint?
Yes, you can avoid a DUI checkpoint in California, but you cannot take illegal actions or put others in danger. You can take another route or turn around as long as you do so legally. Reversing down the street or making an illegal U-turn can be dangerous.
When you see warning signs of an upcoming DUI checkpoint, you can maneuver your way around them. Once you enter the checkpoint, you cannot get out, and you must stop and follow instructions. You can be pulled over and cited if you commit a traffic violation when turning around.
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What if I Do Not Have a License at a DUI Checkpoint?
There are two possible scenarios when you pass through a DUI checkpoint and do not have your license. The first is that you have a valid driver’s license, but you do not have it with you. The second scenario is that you do not have a valid license.
When you have a valid driver’s license but do not have it on your person, you can be charged with a failure to display a driver’s license, which is an infraction and leads to you paying a fine. You can likely get it dismissed when you provide your license. Not having a valid driver’s license is more severe and leads to additional penalties.
You can face a charge of driving without a valid license or driving on a suspended license. Depending on your circumstances, these charges may be made in addition to or separate from a DUI violation. You must speak to the Simmrin Law Group to determine your best option for defending yourself against these accusations.
Can My Vehicle Be Impounded?
Your vehicle will not be impounded if your only charge is not having your license. You can also authorize the release of your car to a licensed driver while at the checkpoint. Previously, law enforcement could impound your vehicle, which was determined to be unfair because the actions were:
- Motivated by financial incentives
- Unfairly targeting undocumented immigrants
- Constituted unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment
You can have your vehicle impounded for other reasons, but California Vehicle Code 2814.2 prohibits law enforcement from impounding your vehicle for lack of a license.
How Does the Fourth Amendment Affect DUI Checkpoints?
The Fourth Amendment protects us from the government’s illegal search and seizure of our property. Some people argue the Fourth Amendment protects them from DUI checkpoints, but this argument can be complex and difficult to prove.
If law enforcement fails to comply with the U.S. or California constitution, you must speak to a DUI attorney in Los Angeles, CA.
What Should I Do if I Encounter a DUI Checkpoint?
When the officers at a California DUI checkpoint fail to meet state or federal constitutional guidelines, discriminate, or commit other illegal practices, you must take legal action. Your next move after experiencing unfair practices at a DUI checkpoint is to speak with a DUI lawyer in Los Angeles, CA, from the Simmrin Law Group.
Contact our offices immediately to schedule a free consultation after a DUI charge.