Sobriety Checkpoints and DUI

Sobriety checkpoints or DUI roadblocks are increasingly being favored by law enforcement agencies as a tool in arresting drunk drivers in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

The courts have held that checkpoints are lawful so long as they follow guidelines established in the leading case of Ingersoll v. Palmer, 43 Cal. 3d 1321. These guidelines establish a set of rules intended to limit the intrusiveness of roadblocks to law abiding citizens. The checkpoint should be well lit and clearly sign posted as a checkpoint. There should be an opportunity to avoid the checkpoint (an escape route) although this is not mandatory. The intent to set up a checkpoint should be published in the local media in advance and the choice of location should be considered appropriate bearing in mind safety and traffic flow. In addition, field officers should be supervised and their discretion should be limited by clearly understood criteria. For example, there should be a formula to follow, such as stopping every car or every other car etc. Motorists should not be pulled over just for avoiding the checkpoint unless they commit a traffic violation.

Motorists should not be detained for longer than necessary to perform the function of the checkpoint and if there is evidence of impairment, such as an odor of alcohol in the car, the motorist should be ushered into a well lit area for field sobriety testing and DUI investigation.

Not all DUI sobriety checkpoints in Orange County and Los Angeles are well run according to the "Ingersoll" guidelines. A detailed discovery request for plans, photographs, policy guidelines and criteria for the checkpoint should be submitted in writing to the prosecuting agency. If there is concern as to the constitutionality of the checkpoint, a 1538.5 motion is the appropriate vehicle to argue for dismissal of DUI charges.

If you have been arrested for a DUI following a checkpoint detention, you should consult with a Los Angeles DUI lawyer to check on the validity of the procedures used in the roadblock. 


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