Most of us never know when or where we’ll be stopped at a
DUI or sobriety checkpoint. The police publicize the date and general location
of Orange County DUI checkpoints, but do not tell the public exactly where
they will be located. As a general rule, however, DUI checkpoints are
set up in areas with a history of drunk driving
When it comes to DUI stops, police must have a reasonable suspicion you
violated a law before they can stop you.
DUI checkpoints are an exception to this general rule. Reasonable suspicion is the lowest
level of belief a police officer must have to stop you, and is not enough
to charge you with a crime.
Probable Cause in DUI Stops
After stopping you the officer begins to build probable cause to arrest
you. Probable cause is beyond a “mere suspicion” that you
have committed a crime, but is still less than the level of evidence necessary
to convict you of a crime. Police build probable cause by looking at what
courts call the “totality of the circumstances.” This requires
the officer to look at all of the information available to him and determine
whether a prudent and cautious person would believe a crime is or has
been committed, and whether you are the person who committed that crime.
Totality of circumstances in a DUI traffic stop may include:
- What traffic violation you committed (e.g. running a red light);
- How long it took for you to recognize the officer’s lights or siren;
- Whether you pulled over in a safe and prudent manner;
- Your general appearance;
- You attitude when the officer spoke to you;
- The level of difficulty it required for you to retrieve your driver’s
license and other paperwork;
- Whether you produced all of the documents the officer requested;
- Whether you responded to the officer’s questions appropriately;
- Your pattern and manner of speech (Were you slurring your words?); and
- Whether you had difficulty exiting the vehicle.
Based on the totality of the above circumstances, the officer may ask you
to step from the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests, which are heavily
relied upon by the police and the courts in evaluating whether you were
driving “under the influence” of alcohol or
drugs. If you fail these test, what usually follows is a DUI arrest.
Field sobriety tests are
optional. There is no fine or penalty for “politely” refusing these tests.
Orange County DUI Checkpoints
At Orange County DUI checkpoints, an officer will usually spend less than
a minute talking with a driver before deciding whether to release the
driver, or ask them to perform field sobriety tests. The overwhelming
factor is the odor of alcohol and the pattern and manner of speech.
It is illegal to lie to the police, but just because they ask you a question
does not mean you must answer their questions. Instead, you should provide
your driver’s license, proof of insurance, vehicle registration,
and then politely tell the officer you do not wish to speak any further
with him about your activities.
If you do get arrested
contact our office for a free, confidential case evaluation!