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DUI Checkpoints: Know Your Rights

If you frequent the roads and highways of your town or state for work or leisure, you have undoubtedly come across a sobriety checkpoint at some time or another. Ever since the United States Supreme Court officially ruled that constitutionality of these mandatory traffic stops, they have been popping up more and more often, especially in California. When you encounter one of these checkpoints, you need to stop. But what else do you need to do, if anything at all?

In order to avoid getting into legal trouble—such as being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) based on misunderstandings, exaggerations, or mere hunches—it helps to know your rights and the rules at DUI checkpoints ahead of time. Our Santa Rosa DUI attorney is here to help you understand your rights under the California DUI laws.

What You Should Know at a DUI Checkpoint

  1. Publicly Advertised: If a sobriety checkpoint forms a complete roadblock, it must be announced to the public in advance. Reviewing local newspapers and news sites regularly should inform you of any upcoming roadblocks, when they will appear, and where they will appear. If you can find no public announcement of the checkpoint that leads to your arrest, the police likely had no right to stop you in the first place.
  2. Clear Purpose: No sobriety checkpoint can exist in secrecy or subtlety. It must be put up in a way that makes it clear that the officers there are checking for drunk drivers. For example, two police cars on the road do not signify or create a valid traffic stop but several with cones, flares, road signs, etc. do.
  3. Time, Duration, and Location: Where and when a DUI stop appears and how long it is there all matter. If you are pulled over and arrested at a checkpoint that was there all day, it could be used in your defense by showing that the checkpoint was not up in good nature or for a reasonable amount of time.
  4. Minimal Detainment: The average motorist should spend less than a minute talking to police officers while passing through a sobriety checkpoint. Drivers who are told to pull over for additional questions or roadside testing are also supposed to be detained for a “minimal amount of time.” If you were interviewed for an extended period of time before you were arrested, the police have violated the rules of the checkpoint.
  5. FST Denial: Drivers always have the right to refuse to take a field sobriety test (FST) without immediate consequence, whether they are at a sobriety checkpoint or any other traffic stop. Before taking a test, ask the officer if it is mandatory. If they say no, you probably should refuse, at which point you may be told to move along or be brought back to the station for chemical testing, which you should not refuse. Denying a chemical test allows the DMV to take away your license without contest.

Were you driving through a sobriety checkpoint when you were unexpectedly told to pull to the side of the road? The following turn of events lead to your arrest? Let our Santa Rosa DUI attorney from the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. know during a free initial consultation! With our team on your side, you may be able to keep your driving privileges and drop all criminal charges. Call 707.418.5352 now for additional information.