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California DUI "Sobriety Checkpoints"

Arrests made at California DUI sobriety checkpoints don't always hold up in court.

California law enforcement is permitted to stop drivers at temporary roadblocks on public routes to check for signs of intoxication.

But these California DUI sobriety checkpoints must comply with rules set forth by the California Supreme Court. If you were arrested at a checkpoint that didn't follow the rules, your arrest may be illegal.

1. What Happens During a California DUI Sobriety Checkpoint?

During a checkpoint, an officer will ask you for your license and registration. He or she may also engage you in a brief conversation.

The officer will be looking for signs of intoxication, such as:

  • You fumble while retrieving your license or registration,
  • You smell of alcohol,
  • There is alcohol, drugs, or drug paraphernalia in the car,
  • Your speech is slurred, or
  • Your eyes are red or watery.

If these or other signs of impairment are present, a typical DUI investigation is likely to follow.

2. Are California DUI Sobriety Checkpoints Legal?

DUI checkpoints are “administrative inspections” -- like airport screenings.  They are an exception to the Fourth Amendment requirement that law enforcement must have probable cause for a traffic stop.

To be legal, sobriety checkpoints must follow eight rules:

  1. supervising officers must make all operational decisions;
  2. criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral;
  3. checkpoints must be reasonably located;
  4. there must be sufficient indicia of the checkpoint's official nature;
  5. adequate safety precautions must be taken;
  6. the time and duration of the checkpoint should reflect “good judgment”;
  7. drivers should be detained a minimal amount of time; and
  8. roadblocks should be publicly advertised in advance.

3. May I Intentionally Avoid a California DUI Checkpoint?

You may intentionally avoid a DUI checkpoint as long as:

  • It is safe to do so, and
  • You obey all traffic regulations while avoiding the checkpoint.

Law enforcement will normally provide sufficient advance warning of an approaching DUI checkpoint so that you can avoid it.

But normal traffic rules still apply. Officers may still pull you over if, while avoiding a checkpoint, you:

  • commit a traffic violation,
  • have a broken tail light or other defect on your vehicle, or
  • display signs of obvious intoxication.

An officer may not, however, pull you over solely because you avoided a California DUI checkpoint.

4. What if I am Driving Without a Current Valid License?

If you do not have a license -- or if your license has been suspended or revoked -- you may be charged with a violation of:

Your vehicle will not be impounded, however, as long as:

  • the only charge against you is driving without a valid license, and
  • you (or the registered owner of the vehicle if that isn't you) authorizes release of the vehicle to a licensed driver by the end of the checkpoint.

Our Los Angeles DUI lawyers understand the nuances of the rules pertaining to California DUI checkpoints. We have seen police errors in checkpoints result in the reduction of charges against our client... or even an outright dismissal of their case.

We have offices in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Orange Counties. If you were arrested following a California DUI checkpoint, contact us for a free consultation to see how we can help.

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DUI cases are rarely hopeless. DUI convictions are almost never inevitable. Clients retain our California DUI defense attorneys for one reason: they want to fight the case. And win.

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The police arrested you for DUI. You gave a blood or a breath sample. The DUI officer confiscated you drivers license. The police released you with a notice to appear in court in a few weeks. Where do you go from here? Our lawyers are here to guide you step by step.