With the holiday season in full swing local, county and state police departments are scheduling more DUI checkpoints. San Diego area cities have received an in flux of money from state and federal sources to fund these checkpoints.
While many have questioned the constitutionality of randomly stopping people who officers have no reason to believe have violated any laws, the United States has upheld their constitutionality as long as the police follow certain guidelines.
- The public must be notified in advance that a DUI checkpoint will be established in a broad area. The police do not have to tell the public exactly where it will be held, but must at least provide some indication, and must tell the public at the same time. They cannot warn a particular group of people differently or at a different time than they warn the general public. They typically do this through the media.
- The checkpoint location must be selected in an area that is known to have a statistically higher number of DUI drivers. This is usually accomplished by showing the number of DUI arrests or accidents in a particular area.
- The police must clearly mark the area with lights, flares, cones, or other warning devices to indicate that the police are the ones conducting the search. Besides assuring the public that the police are the ones stopping them, it also provides the officers and other motorists stopped at the checkpoint a certain level of protection from a surprised motorist who may otherwise unintentionally drive through the checkpoint in an unsafe manner.
- The police must stop each vehicle that drives through the checkpoint, or stop vehicles in a predetermined manner. For instance, the police may stop every third car that drives through. Whatever method they choose must be strictly followed by the police at the checkpoint. They typically will stop every vehicle unless the line of cars gets so backed up that it poses a threat to other motorists or to the vehicles waiting in line.
In addition to DUI checkpoints, San Diego Sheriff Department officers often add DUI patrols during holiday and peak travel periods. Statistics have shown these types of patrols to be more effective at stopping DUI drivers than checkpoints. Driver's should be aware that these officers are looking for any illegal vehicle operation, and will question the driver about their alcohol consumption.
Whether you are stopped at a checkpoint or by a roving DUI patrol officer, you have the right to refuse to answer the officers questions about where you are coming from, headed to, how much you had to drink, or other questions. You must provide the officer with your driver's license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. You should not be argumentative or combative, but politely decline to answer any further questions.
If you find yourself stopped at a checkpoint you should pay attention to way officers are motioning vehicles through the checkpoint, and focus on the questions you are asked. Remember that officers must follow strict protocols during DUI checkpoints. San Diego police and Sheriff's are often well trained on what the proper protocols are, but may fail to follow them in stressful or hurried times.