DUI Checkpoints in California

Driving under the influence, or DUI, is a serious concern in California. According to the California Highway Patrol, 23,000 Americans per year die as a result of alcohol-related automobile accidents, and one American dies approximately every 22 minutes because of DUI-related accidents. In an effort to discourage people from drinking and driving, the California Highway Patrol sets up random sobriety checkpoints throughout California, especially in places and at times that people are more likely to be drinking and driving. At these checkpoints, all drivers must stop and comply with police directives. If a driver is found to have a blood alcohol content level of more than .08 percent at one of these stops, he or she will be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Legality of Random Checkpoints

Although it is legal for California police officers to set up random sobriety checkpoints, there is a process they must go through to set up the checkpoint properly. If the checkpoint hasn’t been established appropriately, it may not be legal. Sobriety checkpoints must:

  • Have a supervising officer present at all times.
  • Include announcements that a checkpoint is coming up, such as road signs announcing that there is a checkpoint in a mile.
  • Offer drivers the ability to take another route in order to avoid the checkpoint. Drivers who opt out of the checkpoint cannot be pulled over simply for avoidance.
  • DUI checkpoints must only be placed in areas of a city where there is a high incidence of DUI.
  • Officers do not have to have probable cause for stopping drivers at sobriety checkpoints; they are stopping everybody. However, officers do need to have probable cause for directing a driver to the sobriety test lane. For example, if a driver fumbles while pulling out his or her license or has slurred speech, the officer may have probable cause for further investigation.

    Impairment Defense

    California law states that a driver is guilty of DUI if his or her blood alcohol level is over .08 and/or the driver is significantly impaired in his or her ability to drive. This law is written this way so that drivers who have a lower blood alcohol content but are clearly impaired can still be arrested for DUI. It also gives people who are arrested at sobriety checkpoints an adequate defense: they can claim the officer had no way of knowing whether or not they were too impaired to drive as the officer did not observe them driving.

    Other Defenses

    The other most common defense to this type of DUI arrest involves probable cause. Again, although officers do not have to have probable cause to stop drivers at DUI checkpoints, they do have to have probable cause for administering blood alcohol content tests. In the event that there was probable cause for a test, attorneys often question how accurate the testing apparatus was.

    Obviously, it is important to have a competent DUI attorney if arrested at a sobriety checkpoint. It is much easier to work with an attorney if the defendant is free to go about his or her business after an arrest. People who are arrested for DUI or their loved ones should consult a Bail Bonds company to help them get out of jail pending trial so that they can more effectively assist in their own defense.

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