FAQ About California DUI Checkpoints

DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints, are police traffic stops meant to arrest drunk drivers and keep the roads safe. These roadblocks are often administered on weekends and holidays in the evenings and early mornings since the likeliness to drunk driving increases.

The following blog post is an overview of the most frequently asked questions about DUI checkpoints in California.

Are DUI checkpoints legal in California?

Yes, they are legal under both the U.S. and California constitutions and are an exception to the Fourth Amendment rule that law enforcement must establish reasonable suspicion or probable cause to investigate a DUI suspect and make an arrest. The latter specifically states that sobriety checkpoints are considered “administrative inspections,” like TSA screenings at airports.

However, law enforcement must adhere to the following rules when setting up DUI checkpoints:

  • Supervising officers oversee checkpoints and must ensure all rules are properly followed.
  • Motorists are stopped in a neutral manner (e.g. stopping every third or fourth car and not making stops based on car models and race).
  • DUI checkpoints must be set up in areas known for drunk driving accidents or arrest.
  • Supervising officers must take adequate safety precautions by making roadblocks clearly visible to approaching motorists through flashing lights and warning signs, as well as establishing street layouts and traffic patterns.
  • Supervising officers must use their “good judgment” to establish the time and duration of a roadblock, which isn’t intrusive to drivers.
  • Motorists must be detained long enough for law enforcement to ask questions and find any signs of impairment.
  • DUI roadblocks must be publicly advertised in advance through local newspapers, local news reports, and police department websites.

What should I expect when stopped?

When you approach an officer at a DUI checkpoint and you are stopped, he/she will ask you for your driver’s license and registration. Additionally, the officer may start a brief conversation to determine if you’ve been driving while intoxicated.

Common signs of intoxication include:

  • The smell of alcohol
  • Slurred speech or delayed movements
  • Difficulties answering questions
  • Alcohol or drugs in plain sight
  • Fumbling when trying to locate and give the officer the license and registration

If the officer suspects you of drunk driving, he/she may ask you to perform a field sobriety test, take a breathalyzer test, or submit to a DUI mouth swab test for drugs.

Can I avoid a DUI checkpoint by turning around?

Yes, there is no law preventing you from intentionally avoiding a sobriety checkpoint—as long as you are not committing any traffic violations (e.g. illegal U-turns or driving with a broken taillight) or you display obvious signs of intoxication.

What happens if I’m caught without my driver’s license?

If you have a valid license and forget it, you could be charged with failure to display a driver’s license, which is an infraction that carries a fine. If you don’t have a valid license, you could be charged with driving without a valid license or driving on a suspended license, which are both misdemeanor offenses punishable by a potential jail sentence and fines.

What should I do when I get stopped?

Stay calm and always be polite, don’t provide any additional information besides your license and registration, do not consent to a vehicle search, and remember you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test.

If you have been arrested at a DUI checkpoint in Bakersfield, contact Koenig Law Office today at (661) 338-5353 and schedule a free consultation.

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