What Happens if I Turn Away from a DUI Checkpoint?

Over the past weekend, you may have encountered a sobriety checkpoint. In an effort to curb drunk driving over holidays, law enforcement typically conducts checkpoints and implements increased patrols over the Fourth of July weekend. If you were out and about at any point from Friday through Sunday morning, you may have seen or driven through a checkpoint. According to the Orange County Sheriff's Department, DUI checkpoints were planned in the following cities: Buena Park, Cypress, Irvine and Laguna Niguel.

What happens if you see a checkpoint and choose to turn away? Avoiding a DUI checkpoint is not a crime, and law enforcement cannot pull you over simply because you choose to turn around and drive away.

Let's take a closer look at sobriety checkpoints and the principles that govern these:

The landmark case Ingersoll v. Palmer (S.F. No. 25001 Supreme Court of California. October 29, 1987) presented the question as to whether sobriety checkpoints are permissible under state and federal Constitutions. Among other things, the court addressed the constitutionality of checkpoints in the manner in which they were conducted, one issue of which concerned the repercussions of a driver turning away from a checkpoint. Now, more than 25 years later, the Supreme Court's decision still holds.

The Court outlined several factors that must be present for a checkpoint to be considered constitutional:

  • Checkpoints must be publicly advertised in advance;
  • Checkpoints must be visible to oncoming motorists;
  • Vehicles must be stopped based on a mathematical formula, rather than on officer discretion;
  • Checkpoints must be located in reasonable areas, most likely to yield results;
  • Checkpoints must be safe, with proper lighting and signage; and
  • Motorists must be stopped for no longer than is necessary.

In Ingersoll v. Palmer, the Court went on to say, "A sign announcing the checkpoint was posted sufficiently in advance of the checkpoint location to permit motorists to turn aside, and under the operational guidelines no motorist was to be stopped merely for choosing to avoid the checkpoint."

If a motorist sees a sign for a sobriety checkpoint and chooses to turn away or turn around in order to avoid being stopped, this is perfectly legal. At many checkpoints, however, officers are waiting in patrol cars to go after motorists who try to turn away. Officers can certainly follow these motorists and may pull them over if they break the law or drive in an erratic manner, but they cannot simply pull drivers over for legally turning away from checkpoints.

It is important to note that you may still be pulled over if you have made an illegal U-turn, are speeding, have a broken taillight, are weaving in and out of your lane or are driving in an otherwise unsafe or illegal manner. If you choose to turn away from a checkpoint, do not give an officer a reason to pull you over.

Should you turn away from a checkpoint only to be stopped by a waiting patrol officer, do not despair. If it turns out that the officer did not have probable cause to pull you over, this can give your DUI lawyer the ammunition he or she needs to challenge your arrest and charges.

Looking for insight regarding sobriety checkpoints and your options in challenging DUI charges in Southern California? Now is the time to involve an Orange County DUI attorney at the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry. We are experienced, driven and ready to fight for drivers' rights in the face of all DUI-related charges, including first DUIs as well as drunk driving accidents resulting in DUI causing injury or vehicular manslaughter charges. Call today.

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