DUI checkpoints or sobriety checkpoints are a way in which law enforcement attempts to curb drunk driving. The effectiveness of checkpoints has been a subject of debate in courts across the country, but federal and state governments continue to fund them through county and local police agencies.
When the police set up a DUI checkpoint in Orange County, they shut down the roadway with cones, flares, police cars, and officers. Typically, every certain number of vehicles (e.g. every four) that drive through the checkpoint are stopped and the driver is asked to show their driver's license, proof of insurance, vehicle registration, and some screening questions.
Screening questions typically include:
- Where are you coming from tonight?
- Where are you headed?
- Have you been drinking?
- How much have you had to drink?
If the officer smells the odor of alcoholic beverages on your breath, or you admit to consuming alcohol, you will likely be asked to step out of your vehicle for a more detailed screening. This screening includes field sobriety testing and portable breath testing. You should never lie to the police. That does not mean, however, that you are required to answer their questions. You can, and should, politely decline to answer their questions about your travels and activities.
Rules the Police Must Follow
The police must follow certain rules when conducting DUI checkpoints. These rules include:
- Having a pre-determined method of stopping motorists who pass through the checkpoint,
- Properly publicizing the general location of the checkpoint, and
- A prescribed method of screening a stopped motorist.
Individual officers have less discretion on how to investigate a DUI suspect at a checkpoint than they do when they stop you on the side of the road.
How Should I Conduct Myself?
If you see a sign that reads "DUI Checkpoint Ahead" or similar language, slow down and proceed carefully. There are a lot of lights and activity going on at a checkpoint. Slowing down and proceeding with caution will help you avoid an accident.
You should not attempt to do a U-turn because you see the checkpoint sign. This may give a police officer reasonable suspicion to stop and investigate you for DUI or other charges. It also creates a safety risk for you and other motorists.
Refrain from trying to get your driver's license and other paperwork out until you are stopped. Checkpoints are full of activity and people walking around. By distracting your attention, you increase the risk of an accident.
If you are ever stopped at a DUI checkpoint, remember: Everything you do and say is probably being recorded by the police. If you are arrested and your case has to go to trial, that video will likely be shown to the jury. Arguing with, or being disrespectful to the police will not sit well with the jurors or the judge.
Arrested at a DUI checkpoint? Contact our office to schedule a free case evaluation with a skilled and aggressive Orange County DUI defense attorney!