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 arrests and accidents.
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.
Note: 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!