The constitutionality of DUI checkpoints has been debated in all 50 states. In some states DUI stops are upheld, while in other states they’re illegal. In California, DUI checkpoints are supported by the law and are therefore legal.
With a traditional DUI stop law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that you committed a traffic violation before it can stop your vehicle. But with DUI checkpoints, that’s not the case.
Typically, law enforcement will set up a DUI checkpoint late at night through the early morning hours on a weekend in an area known for having a history of DUI arrests. As a standard rule, the police stop vehicles based on a predetermined formula, such as every fourth vehicle.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT CHECKPOINTS
Here are three common questions about DUI checkpoints that we get often:
Q. Can you refuse to stop?
A. Provided the DUI checkpoint is legal, the answer is "no" – you cannot refuse to stop at a DUI checkpoint. If you’re passing through a checkpoint and an officer stops your vehicle for questioning, you must comply and stop your vehicle. Running through the checkpoint could result in serious penalties.
Q. Can you turn around to avoid the checkpoint?
A. By law, police must inform the public ahead of time when and where DUI checkpoints will occur. It can be extremely risky to turn and avoid a DUI checkpoint if you see one up ahead. In fact, if police see you evading the checkpoint, they can pursue your vehicle and stop you. So, you should not turn and avoid a checkpoint if you see one. However, you can conduct a Google search before you head out and find out when and where checkpoints will be held so you can avoid them.
Other than researching and avoiding routes with checkpoints, there is really no way to evade a DUI checkpoint. This makes knowing your rights all the more important:
- By law, police cannot search you or your vehicle unless they have probable cause to do so, or you give them verbal consent.
- You are not required to consent to a search or take any type of field sobriety test prior to a lawful arrest.
- Once your window is down, the officer will proceed to ask you questions such as, "Have you been drinking?" You have the right to refuse these types of questions because you have the right to avoid incriminating yourself.
Q. Can I refuse to answer all questions?
A. You can refuse to answer the officer's questions at a DUI checkpoint to an extent. At a legal sobriety checkpoint, law enforcement officials have the right to question you to ascertain if you might be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
You have the right to refuse a vehicle search and you have the right to avoid incriminating yourself, but it is wise to politely answer any necessary questions the officer asks you.