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DUI Checkpoints

DUI Defense: DUI Sobriety Checkpoints in Southern California

We represent many clients arrested for drunk driving or driving under the influence or DUI after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint. The checkpoints may be operated by law enforcement officials of several local police departments calling themselves a special DUI task force.

After your arrest, the prosecutor will file a complaint in the Superior Court of California charging you with violations of California Vehicle Code Sections 23152 (a) (b), and possibly other vehicular offenses. Before you enter your guilty plea, it is critical that you immediately meet with our DUI defense firm's former DUI prosecutors. Our attorneys will explain to you how DUI Sobriety Checkpoint cases are defended.

All DUI Sobriety Checkpoints cases in Southern California should be evaluated in light of California Penal Code section 1538.5. Serious consideration should be given to filing a motion to suppress the evidence obtained at the sobriety checkpoint establishing your alcohol-related impairment. These motions filed in court challenge the lawfulness of the sobriety checkpoint under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and challenge the prosecutor to show that the checkpoint conformed to the guidelines set forth by the California Supreme Court.

California Supreme Court Guidelines

  1. Whether the decision to establish a sobriety checkpoint, the selection of the site, and the procedures for the operation of the checkpoint are made and established by supervisory law enforcement personnel;
  2. Whether motorists are stopped according to a neutral formula, such as every third, fifth or tenth driver;
  3. Whether adequate safety precautions are taken, such as proper lighting, warning signs, and signals, and whether clearly identifiable official vehicles and personnel are used;
  4. Whether the location of the checkpoint was determined by a policymaking official, and was reasonable, i.e., on a road having a high incidence of alcohol-related accidents or arrests;
  5. Whether the time the checkpoint was conducted and its duration reflect "good judgment" on the part of law enforcement officials;
  6. Whether the checkpoint exhibits sufficient indicia of its official nature (to reassure motorists of the authorized nature of the stop);
  7. Whether the average length and nature of the detention is minimized; and
  8. Whether the checkpoint is preceded by publicity.

As California Supreme Court Justice Broussard stated, "the Fourth Amendment is highly inexpedient to law enforcement, yet to date we have not allowed mass detentions on the theory that these might prove useful in combating crime. I see no basis for distinguishing a drunken driving roadblock from any other mass detention established to prevent crime or apprehend wrongdoers."

Attorneys experienced with DUI checkpoints can identify the crucial parts of your DUI defense regardless of your blood alcohol level.  Our experienced DUI attorneys look to formulate a solid defense for you by showing that the checkpoint violated your rights under article I, section 13 of the California Constitution and the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure.

The purpose of the Fourth Amendment prohibition is to safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions by governmental officials. With the right attorneys looking for the right evidence in your favor, your attorney can make the case that the checkpoint was actually an unconstitutional roadblock and you were stopped illegally and subjected to a warrantless search and seizure.

In 1987, the California Supreme Court held that sobriety checkpoints are lawful under the state and federal constitutions if they are conducted within certain limitations. In order for a Sobriety checkpoint, not be a declared unconstitutional roadblocks, each must be set up and regulated according to specific constitutional guidelines. However, the use of a checkpoint is extremely controversial because of the real danger it poses to our liberty interests, including the right to be secure in their persons, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures as stated in the Fourth Amendment of United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

In 1993, the California Supreme Court said advance publicity is not a prerequisite to a constitutionally valid sobriety checkpoint, but the Court, also said in footnote number 3, "nothing in our decision should be construed to suggest that any of the eight guidelines, including advance publicity, are not relevant to a consideration of the intrusiveness of a sobriety checkpoint stop."

In 1990, the United States Supreme Court upheld the use of sobriety checkpoints, stressing the individual states' strong interest in eliminating the serious problem of drunk driving, noting the slight intrusion on drivers if subjected to a brief stop at the checkpoint, and the fact that it is for politically accountable officials to decide which reasonable law enforcement techniques should be used and that checkpoints are a reasonable technique.

In 2000, the United States Supreme Court ruled that vehicle checkpoints for the purpose of interdicting unlawful drugs violated the Fourth Amendment of United States Constitution, because the primary purpose of the checkpoints was indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control. The primary purpose of a sobriety checkpoint must be to "prevent and deter conduct injurious to persons and property." The United States Supreme Court noted that it has upheld brief, suspicionless seizures at a sobriety checkpoint aimed at removing drunk drivers from the road in 1990, and in other limited instances, but the United States Supreme Court has never approved a checkpoint program whose primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing. The fact that it may have a secondary purpose of keeping impaired motorists off the road does not make such a checkpoint Constitutional.

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