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Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in California?

A DUI checkpoint, otherwise known as a "roadblock" is a situation where law enforcement briefly detains drivers in order to weed out any impaired drivers. The purpose of sobriety checkpoints is to keep the roads safer.

Are sobriety checkpoints legal in California? Yes, they are. These police traffic stops are often set up in areas where there has been a high volume of drunk driving arrests or accidents, or they are set up during holidays such as Thanksgiving or New Year's – times when there is expected to be an increase in drunk driving.

Sobriety checkpoints must meet this criteria:

  • A supervising officer makes all major decisions
  • All roadblocks are publicly advertised in advance
  • Motorists are stopped in a neutral fashion
  • The drivers are detained for a limited amount of time
  • The checkpoint is set up in a reasonable location

What to Expect at a Checkpoint

If you drive into a sobriety checkpoint, you will be detained for a few minutes and interviewed. If the officer suspects that you have been drinking, you will be asked to perform a series of roadside "field sobriety tests." If you perform poorly on these tests, the next step is having you submit to a preliminary breath test, which tests your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

The constitutionality of roadblocks has fallen under scrutiny, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the dangers of drunk driving outweigh the intrusion involved in DUI checkpoints. In effect, sobriety checkpoints are exempt from the search and seizure provisions covered in the Constitution.

After the Supreme Court's ruling, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) went ahead and issued standard guidelines for police to use when conducting a sobriety checkpoint.

Arrested for DUI at a sobriety checkpoint?
Contact the
Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. at once to challenge your DUI charges!