DUI sobriety checkpoints are not unusual here in San Diego County. It is a common tool frequently used by law enforcement to identify and arrest drunk drivers. Although sobriety checkpoints are legal in California, they are 8 specific factors that must met in to overcome constitutional challenges under both the United States Constitution and the California Constitution. The California Supreme Court set forth 8 procedural safe-guards required for a DUI sobriety checkpoint to comply with Constitution:
- Supervising officers must make all operational decisions
- The criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral
- The checkpoint must be reasonably located
- Adequate safety precautions must be taken
- The checkpoint’s time and duration should reflect “good judgment”
- The checkpoint must exhibit sufficient indicia of its official nature
- Drivers should be detained a minimal amount of time
- Roadblocks should be publicly advertised in advance.
What To Expect At A California Sobriety Checkpoint?
At a sobriety checkpoint, law enforcement officers will set up a roadblock which will typically cause vehicles to merge before coming to a stop. When selecting which vehicle to stop, the police officer must follow a “neutral” formula.
If the vehicle you are driving was stopped pursuant to a “neutral” formula, the officer will ask you to roll down your window. The officer will typically ask if you had been drinking and will attempt to observe you for any signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, bloodshot/watery eyes, odor of alcoholic beverage, or for any other signs of impairment. The officer may even conduct a brief eye test, known as the HGN test, whereby you will be asked to follow a pen or the tip of the officer’s finger.
If following the stop the officer believe you exhibited signs of impairment, you will typically be asked to perform a series of DUI field sobriety tests (FSTs) and you may also be asked to take a breath test commonly referred to as a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test. At the conclusion of the tests, the officer will arrest you if he or she reasonable believe that you are:
1. Driving under the influence of drug or alcohol in violation of California Vehicle Code 23152 (a) (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/vctop/vc/d11/c12/a2/23152), or
2. Driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater in violation of California Vehicle Code 23152(b) (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/vctop/vc/d11/c12/a2/23152).
However, just because you are arrested and/or charged with a DUI following a sobriety checkpoint, does not automatically mean that you will be convicted of a DUI offense. A skilled DUI lawyer will carefully examine and consider the accuracy and adequacy of the procedures employed during the sobriety checkpoint. Failure to comply with these procedures creates legal challenges for the legality of the sobriety checkpoint, which may result in a dismissal of your DUI charges.