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What happens at a California DUI checkpoint?

Posted by William Walraven | Jul 29, 2021 | 0 Comments

A DUI checkpoint can seem a little like a trap. While you can appreciate the attempt law enforcement is making to help people get home safely, it can be frustrating to be subjected to questions before there is evidence that you did anything wrong.

Over the years, there have been many debates about the legality of sobriety checkpoints across the country. In most cases, courts will rule that they are legal, but they still have to follow specific guidelines.

Here's what you should know about getting through sobriety checkpoints in California.

What officers will ask you to do

The idea behind the checkpoint is to look for clues that people are driving while intoxicated. However, officers need a reasonable suspicion that you have been drinking before asking you to submit to a field or body fluid test. If you are stopped, officers will ask for your license, insurance and vehicle registration. They may also ask screening questions such as:

  • Where are you going?
  • Where are you coming from?
  • How much did you have to drink?

As the officer talks to you, they will also see if there are other indications you are intoxicated, such as slurring your speech.

The rules law enforcement must follow

When determining the protocol for stopping vehicles, officers need to choose a neutral guideline, such as stopping every third car. Although it may be impractical, officers can stop every car since that would still be a neutral formula. Law enforcement also must follow other guidelines, such as:

  • Publishing the checkpoint in advance (often in a press release)
  • Marking the checkpoint with signs, lights and uniformed officers

The rules for these checkpoints are to make the situation fairer for residents passing through so that drivers have a clear indication of what is about to happen as they approach a checkpoint.

About the Author

William Walraven

Education Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, California Juris Doctor - 2008 University of California at Los Angeles B.A. - 2000 Major: Psychology Past Positions McGrane LLP, Associate Attorney Trepel, Greenfield, Sullivan and Draa LLP, Associate Attor...


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