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DUI Checkpoints

DUI Checkpoint Road Sign

Many law enforcement agencies conduct DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints.  The United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court have both ruled that DUI checkpoints are constitutional.  The courts view DUI checkpoints as an administrative inspection, much like a weight station, and not as a Fourth Amendment search that requires an officer to have reasonable suspicion to conduct a DUI investigation.

What happens at a DUI checkpoint?

Prior to a DUI checkpoint being set up, law enforcement will have conducted a review and predetermined where the site of the DUI checkpoint will occur.  From there, law enforcement officers will then proceed to the site at a designated time and set up the DUI checkpoint.  The checkpoint will consist of a mobile command area as well as numerous traffic cones and alert signs informing drivers of a checkpoint ahead.  These cones and signs are set up in a manner to funnel the drivers into the checkpoint and are placed in areas that make it difficult for the driver to avoid.  While avoiding a DUI checkpoint is not illegal, once you have been funneled towards the checkpoint, to do so will require you to likely commit some type of traffic violation, which then gives waiting officers the ability to conduct a traffic stop.

As you approach the checkpoint, law enforcement officers will be standing along the area at various intervals, designed to allow for multiple vehicles to be screened at once.  Once you are stopped, the officer will approach your vehicle and request that you roll down your window and show your license.

You are required to follow these directions

*If you search the internet, you will find numerous message boards and information that states you do not have to comply, that you can refuse to roll down your window, that you only need to show the license up to the window and not actually hand it through to the officer, that you may put up a sign refusing to answer any questions, etc… This information is false and misleading.  California Vehicle Code section 2814.2(a) requires you to submit to a sobriety checkpoint if you are in one. Failure to comply may result in an arrest for obstruction.


From a practical sense, the interaction with the officer takes only mere seconds and It is unwise to adopt such tactics and draw more attention to yourself than necessary at a checkpoint. 


If the officer does not believe you have had anything to drink or does not believe there is enough to evaluate you, they will simply waive you through.  If you are intoxicated, the police will either order you to pull into the staging area or they will have you exit your vehicle and an officer will move your car. 

Do you have to participate once a DUI investigation starts?

No.  If you’ve been removed from the vehicle and asked to submit to field sobriety tests, you may politely decline to do so. You may also decline to provide any breath samples at the scene using the PAS device.

However, if you are arrested for DUI, you are legally required to comply with the chemical test, which will consist of either a blood or breath test.  You only have to participate in this test after you have been arrested for DUI, not before.

Defending a DUI from a DUI checkpoint

The main way to defend against a DUI that is the result of a DUI checkpoint is to attack the checkpoint itself.  The California Supreme Court in the case of Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321, laid out a series of eight requirements for a DUI checkpoint to be valid.


These are:

  1. Supervising officers must make all operational decisions;

  2. The criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral;

  3. The checkpoint must be reasonably located;

  4. Adequate safety precautions must be taken;

  5. The checkpoint’s time and duration should reflect “good judgment”;

  6. The checkpoint must exhibit sufficient indicia of its official nature;

  7. Drivers should be detained for a minimal amount of time; and

  8. Roadblocks should be publicly advertised in advance.


The purpose of these eight requirements is to ensure that law enforcement does not target, or single out persons based on bias.  By conducting DUIs within these parameters, law enforcement minimizes the impact on the general public and ensures that no person is stopped based upon any factor, such as national origin or race.

Dedicated DUI Attorney

Kevin Ballard is a dedicated DUI attorney based in Fairfield who understands how to effectively defend those charged with DUIs. Kevin is one of the few attorneys who is both a former prosecutor and trained as a police officer. As such, Kevin knows first hand how DUIs are handled from the initial traffic stop through prosecution and appeal. Let the Law Office of Kevin L. Ballard help you today defend your rights and protect your liberty.

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