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DUI Checkpoint Arrest

Motorists are often detained at DUI checkpoints and courts have consistently upheld these detentions as constitutional. Under normal circumstances, a detention must be based on specific and individualized suspicion that the person is either involved in a crime or has committed a crime. However, checkpoint detentions are considered administrative or regulatory in nature – therefore, individualized suspicion is not required.

The main purpose, supposedly, is deterrence; that is, the checkpoint is designed to deter people who have been drinking from driving out of fear that they may encounter a checkpoint. This sounds good in theory, but the reality is that whenever someone is stopped, or more accurately detained, law enforcement is allowed to use their training and judgment to look for any indications of criminal activity.

This typically means that even if a checkpoint nets zero arrests, people are often arrested and have their cars impounded for driving without a valid license (VC 14601), possession of drugs, HS 11377(a), HS 11350, or other offenses.

The question naturally becomes what should someone do after they are detained and arrested at a checkpoint? Because of the administrative or regulatory nature, courts look to balance the intrusion on individual liberty (detention) with the purpose advanced by the government (deter drunk drivers).

The courts have looked at the intrusiveness of the checkpoint to determine its constitutionality. There are numerous factors an experienced DUI attorney can challenge – for example, did supervisors select the site and establish procedures, was the checkpoint located on a road with high incidents of alcohol arrests or accidents, did the checkpoint minimize the average time the motorist were stopped, and was their advanced notice of the checkpoint?

This list does not cover all potential defenses to a checkpoint, and remember the checkpoint is just one aspect of a DUI offense. There are numerous other issues with respect to the arrest, chemical tests, and APS/DMV hearing. If you have been charged with a DUI that resulted from a checkpoint, contact my office today. I will provide a free, confidential consultation.