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Can I Refuse to Show ID at a Checkpoint?

Suppose you were driving late one Friday or Saturday evening. Suddenly, you noticed police officers on the road, directing motorists to STOP their vehicles so they could check their driver’s licenses. All stopped motorists were told they had to show the officers their driver’s licenses. When you asked the officer, “Why do I have to show my license when I didn’t do anything wrong?” the officer said to you in a firm voice, “Because, it’s the law.”

You’ve never been stopped like this before. In fact, this is the first time you saw something like this, except in the movies when law enforcement was trying to catch a criminal who was on the run. Now, you want to know: “Were the officers conducting illegal police stops?”

DUI Checkpoints are Legal in California

What you just experienced in the scenario above was a DUI checkpoint, also known as a sobriety checkpoint. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), “Sobriety checkpoints (also called DUI checkpoints) are locations where law enforcement officers are stationed to check drivers for signs of intoxication and impairment.” States use DUI checkpoints as a part of their bigger anti-drinking and driving campaign.

To date, 37 states conduct DUI checkpoints, including California. According to the GHSA, California conducts 2,500 or more checkpoints every year. “Their legality is upheld under state and federal Constitution,” says the GHSA.

Since DUI checkpoints are legal in the State of California, they are not considered unlawful police stops unless they have not been conducted properly (which is rare, but can happen). Should you refuse to show your ID at a checkpoint? No, you should politely hand it to the officer and remain respectful. If you are arrested for DUI, driving on a suspended license, or another criminal charge at a checkpoint, you should contact our office right away to explore your defense possibilities.

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