DUI sobriety checkpoints are commonly used by police agencies to apprehend drunk drivers in southern California. If a driver’s speech sounds slurred or breath smells of alcohol, the driver will be asked to submit to a field sobriety test. In 1990, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of driving under the influence sobriety checks. In Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, the Court found that checkpoints do not violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Court in that case admitted that checkpoints constitute “seizure” as defined by the Fourth Amendment, but the Court weighed the infringement on individual liberty against the need for the checkpoints. The public safety interest in reducing alcohol-related traffic fatalities outweighed the imposition on privacy rights. The Fourth Amendment forbids “unreasonable searches and seizures,” but the Court decided sobriety checkpoints are “reasonable.”
If you are charged with driving under the influence after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, get legal help right away from an experienced DUI defense attorney. In such cases, a good driving under the influence defense lawyer must determine if the sobriety checkpoint was conducted in a constitutional manner. The Supreme Court acknowledged that there must be “guidelines” concerning a checkpoint’s location, publicity, and operation. What are the guidelines? The Supreme Court left the question unanswered and presumably to be decided case-by-case. The California Supreme Court set forth procedural safeguards for California DUI sobriety checkpoints in Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987), and in People v. Banks, California’s Supreme Court ruled that advance publicity is not needed for a checkpoint to be constitutional.
Penalties are severe for DUI convictions in California. If you’re arrested at a DUI sobriety checkpoint, get help from a good California DUI defense lawyer who will work hard to have the charge reduced or dismissed. Should your case go to trial, an experienced DUI defense attorney will find a weakness in the prosecution’s case and fight aggressively for your acquittal. Whether you are stopped at a checkpoint or at some other location, if you are accused of DUI now or in the future, it’s imperative to obtain the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney immediately.