Sobriety Checkpoints

Sobriety or "DUI" checkpoints are a common tool used by law enforcement agencies to identify motorists who may be driving under the influence throughout Los Angeles or other areas of California, and make an arrest. These sobriety checkpoints are often set up around holidays when more people may be behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, such as Memorial or Labor Day weekends, July 4th, etc.

Sobriety checkpoints or DUI roadblocks are common across California, funded by the Office of Traffic Safety. With the typical DUI stop, there must be probable cause for police to question you; this is not the case with sobriety checkpoints.

Usually situated in high traffic areas, DUI checkpoints make it possible for police to question random drivers at their own discretion when an officer suspects the driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

What can you expect at a sobriety checkpoint?

When these checkpoints are set up, it is done in a way that all motorists are funneled into lanes with no option but to stop their vehicles. The police will often use a flashlight while looking inside the vehicle and trying to detect the odor of drugs or alcohol (marijuana, beer, whiskey, etc.) You may be asked if you have had any alcoholic beverage to drink, taken drugs, smoked marijuana, or something similar; police will also watch your reaction to questions and consider whether you appear to be impaired or intoxicated.

Sobriety checkpoints in Los Angeles must meet specific legal requirements. These requirements include:

  • All vehicles going through the checkpoint must be stopped, and drivers treated in the same manner
  • The checkpoint must be overseen by a law enforcement supervisor
  • Sobriety checkpoints must be situated in a location that is reasonable, and clearly marked
  • When a sobriety checkpoint will be set up, the public must be notified in advance

In most cases, motorists can learn where DUI checkpoints are scheduled to be set up using interactive maps on Internet sites, and from local news sources.

While there is considerable controversy regarding the fairness of sobriety checkpoints, there are certain things you should and should not do if you find yourself in a situation where you will be checked for possible DUI.

What to Do at Sobriety Checkpoints in California

If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, never admit to consuming alcohol or drugs even if the officer suspects you are under the influence.

If the police officer asks you to submit to a coordination or field sobriety test, refuse. Field sobriety tests can be influenced by many things, even when a person has not consumed drugs or alcohol. Prescription or over-the-counter medications, certain medical conditions, and even a simple lack of balance can result in failure of these tests. It is not required by law that you submit to a FST when asked by police, so do not agree.

If asked to submit to a breath or blood test, do not refuse as state law does require motorists who are suspected of DUI to submit to these tests. If you refuse to take a breath/blood test, the penalties may be more severe than those you would face if you were actually convicted on DUI charges. Penalties could include a lengthy suspension of your driver's license, and even jail time.

Many motorists believe they cannot turn away from a sobriety checkpoint and must proceed through it. This is not the case, and drivers may intentionally evade a checkpoint as long as all traffic laws are obeyed in doing so under the California vehicle code and state law. However, you want to avoid making an illegal u-turn, and instead choose a turn off or exit. Police cannot legally detain you if you do not break any traffic laws in turning away from a sobriety checkpoint.

Contact The Justice Firm Today

What happens if you are charged with DUI at a sobriety checkpoint? First, it is imperative to consult with an experienced DUI attorney. Your lawyer will work to ensure the sobriety checkpoint was conducted lawfully, and your legal rights were not violated. There are many situations in which DUI charges may be completely dismissed or the charge reduced. At The Justice Firm, we work vigorously to protect clients charged with DUI from harsh penalties including jail time, driver's license suspension, probation, and more. Call us immediately for a free consultation at (310)914-2444.