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Turning Away from a DUI Checkpoint

According to the Governor Highway Safety Association (GHSA), “Sobriety checkpoints (also called DUI checkpoints) are locations where law enforcement officers are stationed to check for signs of intoxication or impairment.” Many states, including California, use DUI checkpoints as a part of their larger anti-drunk driving campaign.

DUI checkpoints are NOT legal in all states; they are currently legal in 37 states, but 13 states, including Texas, do not conduct them because they are prohibited by state law or under the Constitution, according to the GHSA. In California, “2500 or more checkpoints are conducted annually. Their legality is upheld under state and federal Constitution,” reports the GHSA.

So, now that we’ve clarified the fact that DUI checkpoints are in fact legal in California, let’s discuss the issue of “turning away at a sobriety checkpoint.” We thought we’d dedicate a post to this because a lot of people wondering, “Can I turn away from a DUI checkpoint?”

You’ll Probably Be Nabbed by a ‘Chase Car’

Law enforcement frequently sets up DUI checkpoints near bars and nightclubs where there has been a high number of DUI accidents and arrests. So, let’s say you go out for a night on the town and as you’re driving in a busy area, you start to approach a DUI checkpoint. Can you turn away undetected? Probably not.

You see, at the majority of DUI checkpoints, the police assign an officer to be what’s called the “chase car operator.” This officer parks his or her vehicle in a strategic spot where they can see cars that attempt to turn away from a roadblock. As far as the chase car operator is concerned, any vehicle that turns away is trying to avoid the checkpoint because of impaired driving, a suspended driver’s license, or even an arrest warrant. In other words, the police see this as “fishy behavior,” which deserves investigation.

Was the Turn Legal or Illegal?

There are cases in the U.S. where citizens who found a safe, legal way to turn away from a roadblock were able to; however, many of them were initially pulled over by the chase car. Since these cases depend on different factors, such as the traffic laws, it’s important to discuss the legality of being caught by a chase car with an experienced DUI defense attorney.

In some cases, drivers approaching roadblocks made legal turns, but that didn’t stop the chase car from pulling them over. If something similar happened to you, contact our office to meet with our board-certified DUI defense specialist, Attorney Virginia L. Landry.