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Can I Turn Away from a DUI Checkpoint?

What is a DUI or sobriety checkpoint? It’s where law enforcement personnel set up a station to check drivers for signs that they are driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. But these checkpoints do even more. They can help peace officers arrest people who are driving on a suspended license and people who have warrants out for their arrest.

DUI checkpoints are not legal in all 50 states, but according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), they are legal in California. According to the GHSA, California conducts at least 2,500 DUI checkpoints every year and they are upheld under the state and federal constitutions.

DUI checkpoints are typically set up in areas with a history of DUI arrests and crashes. For example, near bars and nightclubs where alcohol is served. That said, it’s not unusually for DUI checkpoints to be set up in areas with popular bars and nightlife – areas where people will be driving to and from these establishments between the hours of 10pm and 2am.

Can I Turn Away from a Checkpoint?

Suppose a driver has been drinking alcohol at a bar or nightclub. The driver leaves the establishment, jumps in their car and heads home. On their way home, they approach a DUI checkpoint. Knowing that they were drinking alcohol earlier in the evening, the driver gets nervous and starts to wonder, “Can’t I just turn away? As long as it’s a legal U-turn, what’s the harm?”

It is not advisable to turn away from a DUI checkpoint. If the police see you turn around before driving up to the checkpoint, they can send a car to pursue you. Once you’re pulled over the officer is going to want to know why you turned away from the checkpoint. They’re going to want to know if you’ve been drinking. By turning away from the checkpoint, you look guilty, like you’re hiding something and you’ll capture their attention almost immediately.

Here are some things to remember about a DUI checkpoint:

  • Turning away from a checkpoint is a bad idea.
  • Be polite to the officers and show them your license and registration if they ask for them.
  • You do not have to say that you just came from a bar or nightclub. Don’t lie either. Say something to the effect of, “With all due respect, I decline to answer your questions sir.”
  • Do not tell them how much you drank. Instead politely say, “I do not wish to answer your questions.”
  • Do NOT perform the field sobriety tests. There is no penalty for refusing and any evidence obtained WILL be used against you in court.
  • If you refuse a breath or blood test, know that your license will be automatically suspended for one year.
  • You do NOT have to consent to a search of your vehicle. However, if the officer sees an open container of alcohol “in plain view,” he or she has the right to search your vehicle without your consent or a warrant.

To learn more about DUI checkpoints and your rights during a DUI stop in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc.