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Was The DUI Checkpoint Legal?

DUI checkpoints create a lot of confusion for obvious reasons. The idea that police can stop, briefly detain, and question someone without reasonable suspicion or probable cause – some individualized suspicion that the driver has done something or is doing something illegal – is problematic.

DUI checkpoints are considered regulatory (not criminal) in nature – and therefore do not require reasonable suspicion or probable cause. The test to determine if the detention or seizure from a checkpoint was justified (constitutional) depends on balancing the public interest served by the checkpoint and the interference with individual liberty.

This does not mean that all checkpoints are constitutional, however. In Ingersol v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3rd 1321, the court set specified criteria that must be considered when a checkpoint is implemented:

  1. Supervisory law enforcement personnel establish the checkpoint; selection of the site; and procedures for the operation.
  2. Neutral formula is established for stopping the vehicles – for example, every second driver, fourth driver, etc.
  3. Adequate safety precautions are taken – for example, warning signs, proper lighting, signals, etc.
  4. The location was reasonable, for example, has high incidence of alcohol related incidents; and the checkpoint was determined by a policy making official.
  5. Good judgment with respect to the timing and duration of the checkpoint.
  6. The checkpoint indicates its official nature – this is supposed to ensure the public that the checkpoint was authorized.
  7. The length and nature of the detention was minimal.
  8. Advanced publicity of the checkpoint was provided.

If you have been arrested or charged with a DUI as a result of a checkpoint, contact me today. I will provide a free, confidential consultation.