Since the Fourth Amendment requires the police to have reasonable suspicion when detaining someone, a DUI Checkpoint is necessarily a violation of that concept. But the United States Supreme Court decided, in Michigan Dept. of State Police vs. Stitz, that the government's interest in protecting citizens outweighed the violation of the driver's rights. As a knowledgeable Orange County DUI checkpoints lawyer understands, court decided that if law enforcement set up clear and neutral guidelines, checkpoints wouldn't violate the Constitution. Many civil rights groups continue to disagree and many states, though not California, have barred their use.
What does a police agency have to do to set up a DUI checkpoint in California? Well, each department crafts its own guidelines, but there are some basic principles.
- The roadblocks must be limited in time.
- The police must provide drivers with an opportunity to "escape", that means the driver can actually avoid the checkpoint if he or she wants to.
- The detention must be brief and limited to determining sobriety.
- The police must publish notice that a checkpoint is going to be established in a particular area.
- The area must be one that sees a higher rate of DUI arrests.
Are they effective? Arguments abound in either direction. According to the CDC, they are.
Whether they are or not, if you have been charged with DUI at a checkpoint, a DUI checkpoints lawyer in Orange County can evaluate whether the stop was legally conducted and advise you of your choices.
While the legality of checkpoints has been litigated extensively over the last 25 years or so, the United States Supreme Court set the standard, ruling that the benefit to the public outweighed the "small" intrusion" into an individual's privacy. The dissent pointed out that there was little evidence that checkpoints actually worked to reduce driving under the influence (DUI) but pose a greater privacy threat than the majority claimed. In the intervening years, California has set out guidelines (above) in an attempt to regulate the application of the case law.
But let's consider this: the average sobriety checkpoint contact involves the complete stop of your car. Further, the officer has face to face contact with you and can take the opportunity to peer into your car without your permission. If he sees something he believes, in his subjective opinion is illegal, he can detain you. That means he can order you to pull to the side, order you out of your car and attempt to gain permission to search the car and its contents.
So, from an individual's perspective, it's not a DUI enforcement stop anymore. And it's not brief. As an Orange County DUI checkpoints attorney, I have represented hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who were detained for hours while their car was literally pulled apart by a suspicious police officer. If an officer thinks there are drugs in the car, he can call for a K-9 unit. That can add additional time to the detention and tremendous anxiety to the driver. Is this a "brief intrusion" into your privacy rights anymore? No, it's not.
We cannot ignore the fiscal impact of checkpoints, either. A 2009 study at the University of California at Berkeley found that checkpoint arrests for any reason generated $40 million dollars in revenue for towing companies and cities. That's a pretty good incentive to establish checkpoints. Nevertheless, there are many websites, texting services, twitter pages and and even a Facebook page devoted to sharing checkpoint information, so the public can get a tremendous amount of information about the nature and location of checkpoints before they get behind the wheel. A DUI checkpoints attorney in Orange County also can explain your rights in greater detail.