Law enforcement officers in California can legally set up checkpoints to find motorists driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol. These DUI checkpoints are considered constitutional and are a common way police departments and other law enforcement agencies crack down on intoxicated driving.
However, drivers do have several rights when it comes to DUI checkpoints. You should know your rights in case you arrive at a DUI checkpoint and things do not go smoothly, or you have concerns about the process. Continue reading to learn how these stops work and the possible consequences of not stopping or cooperating with the officers.
You Have a Right to Avoid a DUI Checkpoint in California
Drivers in California can legally detour around a DUI checkpoint if they can do so without breaking the law. This means that if a driver spots a DUI checkpoint ahead, they may turn onto a side street or turn around to take a different route. However, officers often position these checkpoints in locations that make it difficult to do so.
Legally, a law enforcement officer cannot arrest a driver just for avoiding a DUI checkpoint. However, drivers who break the law to get away from the checkpoint may face a citation or arrest. For example, any of the following actions could lead to trouble:
- Making an illegal U-turn
- Turning into oncoming traffic
- Driving onto a sidewalk
Unless there is a safe, legal place to turn onto a side road, turn around in a parking lot, or make another similar driving maneuver, your best option may be to continue through the checkpoint.
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Right to Avoid Self-Incrimination at DUI Checkpoints
The Fifth Amendment allows you to remain silent if speaking would incriminate you. This is the “right to remain silent” you hear officers reciting to those they arrest on television. Drivers maintain their Fifth Amendment rights during DUI checkpoint stops and through any other interactions with officers or the court system.
This means they have the right not to answer questions that would directly incriminate them, such as:
- Have you been drinking?
- How many drinks did you have?
- Did you just come from a bar?
However, drivers should maintain a polite demeanor while at a DUI checkpoint. Refusing to answer questions could make the officer look for other reasons to stop you, question you further, search your car, perform sobriety tests, or take additional steps. Maintain your composure and be polite. Arguing with a law enforcement officer can worsen a driver’s legal situation.
Rights Associated with DUI Testing in California
Law enforcement officers may request drivers to complete field sobriety testing or chemical tests if they believe an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drivers are legally required to go along with these tests if they are:
- Under 21
- On DUI probation
- Legally arrested
However, drivers have the legal right to decline field sobriety tests and preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) tests in some cases. Note that declining to complete these assessments could lead to a DUI arrest. Once arrested, drivers must comply with all chemical blood alcohol content (BAC) testing and other assessments.
Failure to comply with legally ordered DUI testing can have serious legal consequences. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can revoke a driver’s license for up to one year for a refusal to complete a legal DUI assessment in Los Angeles. In addition, you will likely still face charges for the drunk driving allegations and could face additional penalties, as well.
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Right to a Properly Operated DUI Checkpoint
Law enforcement agencies must operate DUI checkpoints in accordance with specific legal guidelines in California. Drivers have a right to expect these checkpoints to meet all legal requirements. This means that a checkpoint must:
- Have a supervising officer to handle operational decisions
- Stop motorists based on neutral criteria
- Be located in a reasonable place
- Take safety precautions that are adequate to the situation
- Show good judgment in duration and time
- Indicate sufficiently that it is official
- Detain drivers for a minimal amount of time
- Provide advance notice to the public regarding roadblocks
It is noteworthy that California requires agencies to provide advance notice of the location and time of checkpoints. Pay close attention to news reports before big holidays or summer weekends when these DUI roadblocks are most common. You will likely learn the areas to avoid so you can miss the checkpoints entirely. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. What can you do now after your arrest?
If you believe there was anything amiss with the checkpoint where your arrest took place, notify your attorney. This could play a key role in your defense. The court system could later overturn any arrests made at DUI checkpoints that fail to meet these legal requirements.
California set up these guidelines to keep DUI checkpoints fair and responsibly operated. If possible, you should carefully note any issue that occurs with your stop, testing, and arrest. Your attorney may use them to your advantage in court later.
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Rights After an Arrest at a DUI Checkpoint
Drivers have rights even if after a DUI checkpoint arrest in California. Drivers should be:
- Read their Miranda rights before they police question them
- Treated humanely during the arrest process
Mistreatment or abuse by a law enforcement officer can violate a driver’s rights during an arrest at a DUI checkpoint. Additionally, drivers charged with a DUI have the right to contact a legal representative. Working with a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles is often vitally important for drivers facing DUI charges.
You should connect with a DUI lawyer as soon as your circumstances allow. You can call after your release from the initial arrest, during this process, or have a family member call on your behalf following your arrest. The earlier you have a legal advocate on your side to navigate this process for you, the better.
DUI Lawyers Help Protect Drivers’ Rights
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors focus on securing a conviction after a DUI arrest in Los Angeles. Fortunately, drivers do not have to try to stand up to these charges on their own. Help is available right now from DUI lawyers in Los Angeles. Legal professionals can:
- Ensure police and others respect the driver’s rights during legal questioning
- Monitor any police investigation to make sure they operate within their legal bounds
- Protect a driver’s rights when looking over potential plea bargains
- Develop a strong defense strategy to seek a more positive outcome
- Represent the driver’s best interests throughout the criminal justice process
Getting legal help quickly after an arrest at a DUI checkpoint can increase a driver’s odds of successfully resolving DUI charges in California. You do not want to try to fight this alone. There are options for many first-time offenders. Your attorney will know about them and help you pursue the one that best fits your case and your individual needs.
Speak to Our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Now
You can get professional help on your side now if police officers arrested you at a DUI checkpoint in California. Focus on protecting your rights in this situation by working with Simmrin Law Group. Our attorneys understand DUI law in Los Angeles and the criminal justice process. We can help you fight the allegations against you.
Complete our online contact form or call to reach us now. A team member is standing by to go over your rights in a free consultation.