In Orange County, DUI arrests are often made at DUI or sobriety checkpoints. At a DUI checkpoint police will randomly stop vehicles to check the sobriety of the drivers. They are usually set up at times and places where police expect to encounter many drivers who have been drinking.
Requirements of a DUI Checkpoint
However, there are specific rules governing the publication and operation of checkpoints. If the police don’t comply with these rules then your DUI case can be successfully defended. A lawful DUI checkpoint must comply with the following requirements:
- The public must be given advanced notice of the checkpoint. The location and time of operation must be provided to the media
- As drivers approach the checkpoint they must have the opportunity to avoid the checkpoint if they choose. Drivers who turn to avoid the checkpoint cannot be stopped solely because they turned to avoid the checkpoint
- There must be a random formula for deciding which cars to stop. For example, every 5th car
- The location of the checkpoint must be reasonable. Driver’s can’t be put in a dangerous situation
- The sobriety checkpont must be well marked, well lit, and have adequate signs to notify approaching drivers
- The duration of the stop must be limited and reasonable. The intrusiveness of the stop must be minimized as much as possible
- Field officers are limited in their discretion
- Safety conditions must be maintained.
Legality of DUI checkpoints
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches of citizens. This means that the police aren’t allowed to stop you without probable cause to believe that you have broken the law.
However, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Michigan v. Sitz that there is an exception to the Fourth Amendment where DUI checkpoints are concerned. The Court reasoned that the intrusion of liberty imposed by the checkpoint was slight as weighed against the protection of public safety by deterring and catching drunk drivers. Thus, the court held that DUI checkpoints are Constitutionally permissible so long as certain criteria were met to ensure the limited intrusion of a DUI checkpoint.
In 1987 the California Supreme Court enumerated the criteria necessary to make a DUI checkpoint legal in Ingersol v. Palmer. The eight factors listed above come directly from Ingersol. Thus, non-compliance with the Ingersol factors above will give rise to a Constitutional challenge to any DUI arrest resulting from a DUI checkpoint.