A DUI checkpoint involves stopping every vehicle, or a specified sequence of vehicles, at a pre-determined, fixed location. Sobriety checkpoints are conducted to detect drivers impaired by alcohol or other drugs. Checkpoints allow officers to stop vehicles without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
A DUI Checkpoint is a Seizure
A DUI checkpoint is a seizure because it intentionally restricts or delays a motorist’s movement with no justification. A DUI checkpoint is unconstitutional if the stop is “unreasonable.”
Legality of Checkpoints
The U.S. Supreme Court and California Supreme Court have both ruled DUI sobriety checkpoints are not illegal under the Fourth Amendment when conducted properly. (Michigan State Police Department v Sitz (1990) 496 U.S. 444; People v. Banks (1993) 6 Cal.4th 926; Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321). The courts have held that DUI sobriety checkpoints are exceptions to the rule against unlawful seizures if they are conducted properly.
CRITERIA FOR DETERMINING THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF A CHECKPOINT
The following factors are used in determining the legal validity of the checkpoint (People v. Banks, 863 P.2d 769 (1993))
(1) Whether the decisions with respect to the establishment of a sobriety checkpoint are made by supervisory law enforcement personnel;
(2) Whether motorists are stopped according to a neutral formula;
(3) Whether adequate safety precautions are taken;
(4) Whether the location of the checkpoint is determined by a policymaking official, and is reasonable;
(5) Whether the time the checkpoint is conducted and its duration reflect “good judgment” on the part of law enforcement officials;
(6) Whether the checkpoint exhibits sufficient indicia of its official nature;
(7) Whether the average length and nature of the detention is minimized; and
(8) Whether the checkpoint is preceded by publicity.
Challenging a DUI Checkpoint
The fact that sobriety checkpoints are not per se a violation of the Fourth Amendment should not dissuade you from closely scrutinizing any case arising from such a procedure for suppression issues. Examining the issue of reasonableness focuses on how intrusive the procedure is. The more factors you find that are not in compliance with the law the more likely you will prevail in a motion to suppress the stop. Winning a suppression motion results in the exclusion of all the prosecutions evidence and usually a dismissal of the case.
IF YOU THINK YOU WERE UNLAWFULLY DETAINED AT A DUI CHECKPOINT, WE CAN HELP
We have successfully represented many drivers stopped at DUI checkpoints. We have obtained dismissals and reductions of DUI charges and have had DMV suspensions set aside. Call our office today at (916) 939-3900 to speak directly to an attorney about your DUI checkpoint stop. We are open 24/7/365 to answer your questions.