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California Sobriety Checkpoints


The Huffington Post reported this week on California “sobriety checkpoints” that have come under fire. These checkpoints are likely familiar to area drivers—they are temporary roadblocks on public streets designed to catch drunk drivers.

In addition to issuing California DUI tickets, the checkpoints are often used to issue other citations. For example, the Huffington Post story notes how many have challenged the used of the checkpoints in some areas of the state to catch undocumented immigrants. The story reports that for every drunk driver picked up in one of these checkpoints, there are often ten or more unlicensed (usually undocumented) drivers who are ticketed.

Some have also claimed that many checkpoints violate state law which requires that no profits be generated from the checkpoints. Many police departments run afoul of this rule, because hefty profits—in the millions—are often generated from fees, citations, and the auctioning of vehicles compounded. One city recently was found to have falsely included bulletproof vests and police radios in towing expenses from these checkpoints in order to make it seem as if no profits were being made.

Our Santa Rose DUI lawyer knows that illegal and unsavory tactics are often used to ensnare local drivers. To the average traveler it always seems like police have all of the power when it comes to these situations. However, the courts have consistently held that all checkpoints must be held to strict standards. When those standards are violated, the drivers who were cited, including for DUI, often have legal recourse to challenge the process. That is one of many reasons why it is vital to contact an experienced North Bay Area DUI lawyer if you face one of these situations in our area.

So, what guidelines must checkpoints follow?

In Ingersoll v. Palmer the California Supreme Court laid out clear rules regarding how these checkpoints must be set up. For example, the checkpoint must be announced in advance and set up by command law enforcement officers—officers in the field cannot set these up. When deciding what vehicles to stop, a neutral mathematical formula must be used. In other words, if it can be shown that the officers stopped your car for reasons not connected to random assignment, then the legal protocol may not have been followed. Also, the law demands that at all times the checkpoints be highly visible and be maintained safely.

Importantly, drivers can only be detained for a short time, enough for the officers to question the driver briefly and look for signs of clear intoxication. If an officer keeps someone too long for no clear reason, this may be a violation of the checkpoint rules, and the driver’s constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure may have been violated.

Getting arrested for a DUI is always an incredibly stressful and anxiety-ridden situation. Please do not forget that you do not have to go it alone. At Beck Law we have trained legal professionals who have years of experienced helping drivers exactly in your position. Whether you were arrested in a checkpoint, after being pulled over, or in any other situation, please do not hesitate to get support. Contact our Santa Rosa DUI lawyers today to learn how we can help.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

DUI California Field Sobriety Tests
Drunk Driving in Santa Rosa – The Facts

Headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, Beck Law P.C. offers DUI legal services to clients in Santa Rosa, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Windsor, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, Kelseyville and throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County and Lake County.

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