Can police randomly stop drivers at Sobriety Checkpoints?
DUI Checkpoints or Sobriety Checkpoints are indeed legal in California. These checkpoints are random police traffic stops or roadblocks that are not tied to any probable cause. The locations chosen for checkpoints are temporary and random.
To abide by the Supreme Court and California Constitution, the following legal standards must be met:
- 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.
During a sobriety checkpoint stop, drivers are briefly detained and interviewed and suspicious drivers are subject to sobriety tests. The objective of DUI checkpoints is to arrest drunk drivers and help keep the roads safer. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sobriety checkpoints have the potential to prevent nearly 1 out of 10 DUI-related deaths.
Doesn't a police officer need to have probable cause before stopping someone?
Yes, the U.S. Constitution requires that a police officer have probable cause for a traffic stop. But the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the dangers from drunk driving outweigh the "degree of intrusion" of sobriety checkpoints and they are an exception to the search and seizure provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Subsequently the National Highway Safety Transportation Board has issued guidelines for police when administering a sobriety checkpoint.
Perhaps the most important guideline is that the police must publicize the checkpoints ahead of time. You may be able to learn about when or where these checkpoints will be held at Roadblock.org.
If you are suspected or arrested for DUI, it is critical that you cooperate with law enforcement, but do not make any admissions or help the police build a case against you. As soon as practicable, you should contact an attorney for advice and help constructing a defense. For a strong defense from an experienced DUI lawyer, Leon J. Mezzetti, Jr., contact us toll-free at 877-791-1836 or via our online form for a free consultation.
For further reading: Sobriety Checkpoints, Wikipedia