As the holiday season winds down and the new year begins, law enforcement often focuses its attention on cracking down on drunk and intoxicated driving. Those facing a driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs charge often feel overwhelmed and uncertain during this confusing time, and they wonder how this incident will impact their lives in the near and long term. In California, DUI charges can range in severity from a misdemeanor (punishable by probation, fines, DUI school, and a license suspension) to a felony—the consequences of which can be severe and lasting (such as a jail sentence, costly fines, and other far-reaching penalties). For the most part, law enforcement officers must have what’s known as “probable cause” to pull you over for a suspected DUI offense. For instance, if the officers see your car weaving considerably between lanes or moving erratically, they can pull you over and assess the situation to determine whether you are intoxicated. However, law enforcement agencies sometimes set up DUI checkpoints to stop drivers for intoxicated driving, much like airports screen passengers for safety reasons. Approaching a DUI checkpoint in Palmdale or Lancaster can be intimidating and confusing, so it’s essential to understand your rights in this situation and know what to expect when stopped. If law enforcement arrests you for a DUI offense, FORMER DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY and FORMER JUDGE PRO TEM David M. Wallin is ready to defend your legal rights at every turn. With a certified criminal law specialist who has over three decades of experience by your side, you can trust that your attorney will fight tirelessly to secure you the best possible outcome.
How DUI Checkpoints Work in California
The United States Constitution makes it clear that law enforcement officers must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to initiate a criminal investigation against an individual. For example, police officers must be able to provide a concrete reason for pulling you over, such as your excessive speed, failure to obey a traffic light, or erratic driving. They cannot pull vehicles over for no reason, and doing so may violate your constitutional rights. However, the California Supreme Court recognizes that DUI checkpoints are considered “administrative inspections” that provide an exception to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It’s essential to understand that the law enforcement entity that is conducting the DUI sobriety checkpoint must follow specific rules and legal requirements. Below are just a few of the legal requirements that California DUI sobriety checkpoints must follow in order to yield valid results and charges.
Criteria For Stopping Drivers Must Be Neutral
Supervising officers (not just field officers) must determine when, where, and how to set up a sobriety checkpoint. When determining where to set up a checkpoint, the supervising officers must use “neutral mathematical selection criteria” to maintain impartiality and fairness. For instance, the supervising officers may decide to stop every fourth car or to stop three consecutive vehicles out of every ten that drive by. Criteria based on the vehicle’s make and model, the driver’s race or ethnicity, or any other subjective details are not acceptable—they may even be considered forms of profiling and violate an individual’s constitutional rights.
The Checkpoint Must Be Obvious and Identifiable
When supervising officers set up a DUI checkpoint, they must make it clear and identifiable to all drivers. Motorists should understand that they are approaching an official DUI checkpoint. The officers creating the checkpoint can use warning signs, flashing lights, marked police vehicles, and visual signals that indicate the approaching DUI checkpoint. Moreover, supervising officers are expected to use reasonable judgment to determine the time of day and duration of a checkpoint, and they should weigh the effectiveness of the checkpoint against the intrusiveness to motorists.
Officers Must Detain Drivers for a Minimal Amount of Time
When a driver stops at a DUI checkpoint, the officer must keep the interaction as brief and efficient as possible. Officers may look for clear signs of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath, slurred speech, or bloodshot eyes. Drivers exhibiting no signs of intoxication or impairment must be able to continue on without delay. If the officer wishes to conduct a further investigation into a driver’s suspected intoxication, this decision must be based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
Understanding Your Rights and Obligations When Stopped
Many drivers wonder whether they can turn their vehicles around to avoid going through a designated DUI checkpoint. While there is no law that prevents drivers from turning around or taking another route to avoid a checkpoint, motorists must obey all traffic laws when pursuing this option. For example, if you attempt a U-turn to avoid the checkpoint but you violate a traffic law when doing so, an officer may still pull you over for this violation. Additionally, if you’re at a checkpoint, you are legally required to stop and comply with the officer’s instructions. However, you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test or pre-arrest breath test, although a refusal will likely result in your arrest for a DUI anyway). No matter what happens, it’s best to remain as calm and cooperative as possible until you are able to speak with a trusted and experienced Palmdale DUI defense attorney.
Keeping Your Future Bright
Facing a DUI charge can be stressful and confusing, especially for first-time offenders. However, it’s important to recognize that you do not have to go through this challenging time alone. Enlisting the help of FORMER DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY and FORMER JUDGE PRO TEM David M. Wallin is the best way to maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome. Now is not the time to leave your future up to chance—call a dedicated DUI defense lawyer with over 35 years of legal experience to discuss your options.
In California, DUI convictions carry significant penalties. If you are facing a DUI charge in Palmdale or Lancaster, FORMER DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY and FORMER JUDGE PRO TEM David M. Wallin is ready to defend your legal rights at every turn. Call the Law Offices of David M. Wallin today at (661) 267-1313 to schedule your free consultation with a certified criminal law specialist who has over 35 years of experience. We offer flexible payment plans, so reach out today to discuss your case.