Attorneys Discuss San Diego DUI Checkpoints
DUI checkpoints are controversial. They are arguably the most effective tool law enforcement has to reduce drunk driving, with an average of three to twenty drunk driving arrests made at every checkpoint in San Diego. But many citizens view them as an infringement on their rights.
However, California has ruled that DUI checkpoints do not infringe on a person’s Fourth Amendment rights, making them legal. Still, police have to follow guidelines to keep the arrests made during a DUI checkpoint legal.
If you or someone you love was unlawfully arrested at a DUI checkpoint, do not hesitate to contact jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys. Our lead San Diego defense attorney is a former LAPD investigator and Board-Certified DUI Specialist. He can investigate the circumstances of your arrest and build a strong case on your behalf. Call us today at (760) 630-2000 to get a free, confidential case evaluation.
There are certain procedures police departments and officers must follow when setting up and manning a checkpoint:
- Only supervising officers can determine how, when, and where DUI checkpoints will be set up. Field officers cannot decide on their own to set one up.
- The criteria for stopping drivers must be made ahead of time and must be based on a neutral mathematical component. This would include criteria such as stopping every fourth car; not stopping cars based on a driver’s appearance.
- Checkpoints must be reasonably safe. This means that approaching drivers must be able to clearly see the checkpoint as they approach. The police department must also consider traffic patterns, the layout of the street, and any nearby intersections.
- Checkpoints must take place during a reasonable time of the day and last for a reasonable amount of time. Most checkpoints take place on the weekend and late at night. Setting one up during rush hour would not be considered reasonable, nor would a checkpoint that lasted all night.
- Officers must make the checkpoint clearly official to reduce fear on the part of drivers. Marked police cars, uniformed officers, and signs all indicate that the checkpoint is legitimate.
- The initial stop must not be too intrusive. If a driver is stopped and does not show signs of intoxication, the stop should only last a few minutes. If an officer suspects a driver has been drinking, that driver can be directed to a secondary location nearby for further questioning and sobriety tests.
In addition to following these guidelines, many police departments will advertise when and where a checkpoint will be set up. This is a preventative measure that it is thought to actually reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road. Advertising is typically done in local newspapers, law enforcement websites, and on local radio stations. However, the police do not have to warn drivers in advance, and failure to warn drivers of a DUI checkpoint in advance will not make that checkpoint unlawful.
Concerned residents have documented common DUI checkpoints around San Diego and North County on Google Maps. In general, law enforcement agencies set up DUI checkpoints along major roads near our freeways, with dozens lining the I-5 and PCH, as well as freeway entrances and exits. Drivers can expect to encounter DUI checkpoints along major roads such as:
- San Diego’s Gaslight Quarter
- Chula Vista
- Mission Bay
- Pacific Beach
- La Mesa
- Solano Beach
- Del Mar
- San Marcos
Alcohol intoxication is not the only thing police are looking for at DUI checkpoints. With the legalization of marijuana in California, police officers in San Diego are working even harder to investigate drivers for driving under the influence of drugs. While breathalyzers are not capable of measuring drug use, officers can still arrest drivers suspected of using drugs.
Traditionally, drug testing was conducted at a certified lab, but that is quickly changing. Field sobriety tests can be used on drivers who use drugs and are admissible in court. In addition, officers have begun using saliva swabs to test for drugs at DUI checkpoints, utilizing the Drager Drug Test 5000. As with breathalyzer tests, an officer must have probable cause to request a saliva swab from a driver, but it is a mistake to assume an officer cannot test for drugs at a checkpoint.
If the officers do not abide by the above DUI checkpoint guidelines, it could make that checkpoint and any resulting arrests unlawful. There are two other common violations by officers when it comes to DUI checkpoints:
- Police officers are not allowed to chase, stop, or detain drivers who try to avoid the checkpoint. Even if the driver admits to making a turn to avoid the checkpoint, he cannot be stopped for doing so. If he is, any evidence collected after he was stopped may be thrown out.
- The handheld breath test officers use if they suspect someone of drunk driving can easily become damaged in the field, and even a small amount of damage can interfere with its calibration, resulting in an inaccurate reading. In addition, officers are required to observe an individual for 15 consecutive minutes before administering the breath test. In DUI arrest situations, and particularly DUI checkpoints, this requirement is often overlooked.
When you pull up to a DUI checkpoint, it is natural to feel some anxiety. You may be completely innocent, but still feel nervous about talking to the police, saying something wrong, or acting suspiciously. However, as long as you remain calm and remember your rights, the stop should take no more than a few minutes and you’ll be on your way.
At a DUI checkpoint, you should:
- Slowly approach the checkpoint, follow all posted traffic signs, and obey the instructions of traffic officers.
- If you have a passenger, have them pull out your license, insurance, and vehicle registration.
- When the officer speaks to you, be polite, patient, and respectful.
- Only when asked, provide your documentation.
- Do not offer any voluntary information, such as where you are going or where are coming from.
- If you are asked to perform a field sobriety or breathalyzer test, calmly agree. An attorney can assist you in fighting DUI charges in a DMV hearing and criminal trial, but refusing to take these tests can lead to an automatic license suspension for one year.
- If you are arrested, remember your Miranda Rights. You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
If you or someone you love was arrested at a DUI checkpoint in San Diego or North County, do not give up hope. Our team at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys can begin planning your defense today. We are well-versed in investigating DUI arrests and exposing police errors to keep our clients out of jail.
Defenses that we can use on your behalf include:
- The police illegally chased and stopped you for turning around at a checkpoint.
- The police did not have probable cause to suspect you of a DUI.
- The police did not have probable cause to search your vehicle.
- A field officer broke protocol and made decisions without approval from a supervising officer.
- The police did not read you your Miranda Rights.
- You only showed the objective signs of intoxication.
An officer’s failure to meet any one of these guidelines for a San Diego DUI checkpoint could result in your unlawful arrest. And when that happens, you will need a qualified attorney from jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys on your side who knows the law and will fight for your rights.
Our founding attorney, James N. Dicks, is a board-certified criminal defense specialist who has attended numerous DUI classes and seminars. He understands what makes a DUI checkpoint lawful, and he will put that knowledge to work for you. Do not live with a DUI charge because you think you have no choice. Call today and get the help you need to fight it.
If you feel that you or a loved one has been unlawfully arrested for a DUI, contact San Diego criminal defense lawyer at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys today at (760) 630-2000.
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