You are driving along Sunset Boulevard when you see a DUI checkpoint ahead. Your mind begins racing. What should you do? As a general rule, law enforcement officers must have probable cause to pull you over and inspect your vehicle. However, under state law, DUI checkpoints are an exception to the rule. Why? Because California courts have determined that DUI checkpoints serve as a “deterrent” to drunk driving and are therefore legal, within certain limits.
You may be asking yourself, “aren’t my Fourth Amendment rights violated when a representative of the government can halt my vehicle and inspect it without probable cause?” Great question. The way courts have squared the legality of DUI checkpoints with the express language of the California Constitution is defining checkpoints as an administrative procedure. Therefore, the probable cause requirement necessary to conduct a traffic stop is no longer necessary.
Police Do Not Have Unfettered Access to Your Vehicle at a DUI Checkpoint
If you are at a checkpoint, understand that you do not have to automatically subject yourself to an intensive question and answer session or an exhaustive search of your automobile. In fact, California courts have set forth clear guidelines that police must follow at a DUI checkpoint including:
- Police cannot selectively stop vehicles – the stops must be neutral;
- DUI checkpoint must be reasonably located;
- Drivers should be detained for only a “minimal” amount of time; and
- DUI checkpoints should be publically advertised in advance.
Avoiding a DUI Checkpoint
You are legally allowed to avoid a DUI checkpoint. Attempting to avoid a checkpoint does not imply you were driving while intoxicated. If you are able to take another route that circumvents the DUI checkpoint without committing traffic or moving violations, you are legally allowed to do so. However, you cannot break the law in an effort to avoid a DUI checkpoint. This means you are not allowed to commit a moving violation (e.g., illegal u-turn, failing to use a turn signal, etc.) while avoiding the DUI checkpoint.
Charged with a DUI at a Checkpoint?
If you or a loved one was charged with a DUI while stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, you have the right to defend yourself and contest the charges. You should speak with an experienced Los Angeles DUI defense lawyer to determine the best way to defend your case. There are multiple issues that can be raised to reveal reasonable doubt about a police officer’s decision to charge you with a DUI.
For example, if police failed to follow protocol while at the DUI checkpoint, that can form the basis for having the charges reduced or thrown out. If police failed to advertise the DUI checkpoint or detained you for an extended period of time, then you can point to those deficiencies as a reason for suppressing evidence obtained while at the checkpoint.
Another defense is if you are diagnosed with Gerd or Acid Reflux. It is common for people to struggle with gastro intestinal reflux disease. This condition can result in a high blood alcohol concentration and cause you to blow a BAC above 0.08, if you were administered a breathalyzer test. Evidence of Gerd raises reasonable doubt about your level of intoxication when you were stopped at a DUI checkpoint.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles DUI Defense Attorney Today
The Law Office of Peter Berlin is dedicated to providing premier criminal defense representation to each of our clients, including those charged with DUI. Our legal team has the experience and skills to provide you with excellent legal representation. Contact our office today for a free, comprehensive consultation at (310) 289-5418.