What Are Your Legal Rights at a DUI Checkpoint?
California law enforcement has been cracking down on intoxicated driving in recent years, and one commonly used tactic in doing so is through DUI checkpoints. Several thousand DUI checkpoints are set up each year in California, with well over 5,000 individuals being arrested for a DUI crime each year at those checkpoints. A single DUI conviction can result in jail time, high fines, court fees, and increased insurance rates in the tens of thousands over the years. Thus, it is important to understand what rights you have at a California DUI checkpoint.
DUI Checkpoints are Constitutional
Normally, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that you broken the law in order to stop your car. But, the US Supreme Court has said that this reasonable suspicion requirement does not apply to DUI checkpoints, so long as certain guidelines are met, including:
- The formula for stopping cars must be neutral (e.g. every other car) as opposed to the arbitrary decisions of officers to stop certain cars.]
- Checkpoints must be visible and reasonable advance notice given.
- Length of motorist detention must be minimal.
Other requirements for checkpoints must be met as well, and an experienced DUI attorney can examine your circumstances and assert potential constitutional challenges to a checkpoint.
You Can Take Steps to Legally Avoid Checkpoints
If you see that a checkpoint is ahead, and you can take steps to legally avoid the checkpoint by, for example, turning down an alternate street, you may do so. But you cannot make illegal u-turns or make other illegal driving maneuvers to avoid the checkpoint.
You Should Present Your License But are Not Obliged to Answer Questions
California law enforcement does have the right to ask to see your driver’s license and you must comply with this request. But you do not have to answer any questions that the police ask of you based on your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. You can simply remain silent or tell the officer that you wish to exercise your right not to answer his or her questions.
Police Must Have Probable Cause to Arrest You
Under the Constitution, the police must have probable cause to believe that you committed a DUI before they can arrest you. This means that the police must be able to point to specific facts that they have observed that led to them believing you are guilty of a DUI. This can include slurred speech, observable open containers in your car, or alcohol on your breath. You do not have to submit to a breathalyzer test prior to an arrest, but you must do so after you have been arrested or face criminal charges for refusing to submit to the test. What this means is that police must have probable cause to arrest you for DUI before they can legally require you to submit to a breathalyzer test. Your DUI defense attorney can object to there having been sufficient probable cause in your arrest and potentially have the charges thrown out.
Work with an Experienced Attorney in Your California DUI Defense
Orange County criminal defense attorney Bart Kaspero works with individuals across Southern California to help challenge DUI prosecutions and reduce or dismiss charges. Contact his office today to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.