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Common Mistakes Officers Make at DUI Checkpoints

By San Diego Attorney on October 10, 2022

Police routinely set up DUI checkpoints in an effort to catch people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unlike normal traffic stops, they do not need probable cause to stop you at a checkpoint. Although these roadblocks are permitted under California law, police are required to follow specific guidelines. When they fail to do so, defendants arrested at a checkpoint have grounds to challenge the arrest.

What Guidelines Must Law Enforcement Follow at DUI Checkpoints?

Police officers must follow strict rules in conducting DUI checkpoints, including the following:

  • An administrative officer – not a field officer or officer on the scene – must make operational decisions regarding how the checkpoint will be conducted before it is established. Those decisions include the date and location of the checkpoint and how vehicles will be selected to be detained.
  • Vehicles must be stopped on an impartial basis. The decision as to which motorists are stopped is determined by the administrative officer in advance. It may not be at the discretion of the officer on the scene.
  • A reasonable location must be selected. The checkpoint must be established in an area where there has been a high incidence of DUI accidents or arrests.
  • There must be adequate lighting and other safety precautions so motorists can safely stop and navigate through the checkpoint.
  • Time and duration of the checkpoint must be reasonable and cause only minimal inconvenience to motorists.
  • Signs must be posted in advance of the checkpoint to alert motorists. Drivers can legally turn around to avoid a checkpoint if it is done safely without violating any traffic laws.
  • Motorists must be detained for the least amount of time possible. If officers detect no signs of impairment, motorists should be allowed to leave quickly.
  • DUI checkpoints must be advertised in advance to give notice to the public that their liberty could be violated. The purpose is to deter people from drinking and driving in the area where the checkpoint is to be held.

What Mistakes Do Police Commonly Make at DUI Checkpoints?

Our San Diego drunk driving defense attorneys can use mistakes made by police officers at DUI checkpoints to get incriminating evidence suppressed or to get the charges dismissed entirely. Mistakes commonly made by officers at checkpoints include:

  • Breaking the rules on choosing which motorists to detain. If it has been determined in advance by the administrative officer that they will stop five vehicles in a row and let the next two go through, any deviation from that pattern is a violation of the rules.
  • Pulling a motorist over who turned around safely and legally to avoid a checkpoint. A defense attorney can argue that there was no probable cause for the stop.
  • Improperly administering field sobriety tests to a motorist who is detained. These tests must be conducted strictly in accordance with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rules.
  • Improperly administering breath tests. These tests must also be administered according to strict rules and guidelines, including proper calibration of the device
  • Detaining a motorist without grounds for reasonable suspicion.
  • Asking a driver to perform field sobriety tests or to take a chemical breath or blood test without probable cause.

If you have been arrested at a DUI checkpoint in San Diego, contact jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys at (760) 630-2000. We are uniquely qualified to help defend your rights, liberty, and reputation. Our founding attorney is a former Los Angeles Police Department investigator and a Criminal Law Specialist, certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a drug recognition expert who stays current with the latest developments in the field.

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