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Am I Legally Required to Participate in a DUI Checkpoint?

By San Diego Attorney on June 26, 2013

DUI checkpoints or sobriety checkpoints are locations where law enforcement officers are stationed to check drivers for signs of intoxication or impairment. There are many jurisdictions that utilize DUI checkpoints as a part of their drunk driving deterrence program. Due to the fact that there are questions as to their constitutionality, not all states conduct sobriety checkpoints. Some states such as California and Nevada authorize their use, where other states such as Oregon, Washington and Texas do not use them. In Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987), the Supreme Court of California concluded that within certain limitations sobriety checkpoints are permissible under the state and federal Constitutions.

The California Supreme Court set forth certain standards and limitations in the administration of DUI checkpoints; for example, the checkpoint has to be decided upon on a supervisory level, rather than by a field officer and the site is to be selected by supervisors based on areas that have a high incidence of drunk driving. Advance public warning is necessary as well as to reduce the intrusiveness and increase the deterrent effect. A sign announcing the checkpoint is to be posted sufficiently in advance of the checkpoint location in order to permit motorists to turn around, and under the operational guidelines, no motorist is to be stopped because he or she chose to avoid the checkpoint.

Providing proper procedures are followed, California law enforcement personnel have the right to set up sobriety checkpoints and ask questions. Keep in mind that you must be given the opportunity to drive away from the checkpoint if you do not wish to stop and if you choose to exercise this right, then you cannot be legally stopped for turning around unless you have committed a traffic violation or displayed obvious signs of intoxication. However, if you do come up to the checkpoint and don’t drive away, the officer may ask you to submit to field sobriety tests and they may ask you to submit to a chemical test in the form of a blood, breath or urine test.

While you can refuse to submit to the field sobriety tests without any negative consequences, under the state’s implied consent law, if you refuse to submit to a chemical test, then you face automatic driver’s license suspension, even if you weren’t intoxicated. For more information about how you should respond at a DUI checkpoint, contact a San Diego DUI attorney from JD Law today!

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