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DUI Checkpoints in Los Angeles
DUI checkpoints are the familiar stops set up by police, often on holidays or other nights when large numbers of people are expected to be drinking, where each car must stop and officers typically ask drivers a few questions before allowing them to pass or having them pull over for further investigation.
Are DUI checkpoints legal?
Yes. The United States Supreme Court has held that DUI checkpoints are legal, arguing that the interests of the government in stopping drunk drivers and reducing drunk driving fatalities were more important than the potential for intrusive searches and violations of privacy.. However, certain conditions must be met. A stop to find anything “suspicious” is illegal. However, a DUI checkpoint, solely for the purpose of stopping impaired drivers, is permissible.
DUI checkpoints in the Los Angeles area must satisfy an eight-point test to be legal:
- Supervising officers must make all operational decisions. To “reduce the potential for arbitrary and capricious enforcement,” decisions about where, how, and when checkpoints operate must be made by supervising officer, not field officers.
- Motorists must be stopped based on neutral criteria. The decision of what vehicles to stop must be made in advance and based on “neutral, mathematical criteria.” For example, officers can stop every car, every other car, or every fifth car. Field officers cannot decide what vehicles to stop during the checkpoint. Also, officers may not decide to stop vehicles based on non-neutral criteria, such as certain types of cars or drivers of certain ages or ethnicities.
- The checkpoint must be reasonably located. There must be frequent DUI arrests or accidents in the location of the checkpoint.
- Adequate safety precautions must be taken.
- The time and duration must reflect “good judgment”.
- Sufficient indicia of its official nature. It must be clear to approaching drivers that they are approaching an official DUI checkpoint. For example, checkpoints can be indicated by signs, lights, marked police cars, and uniformed officers.
- Drivers detained a minimal amount of time. Drivers should only be detained long enough for officers to briefly question them and observer any signs of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, or bloodshot eyes.
- Checkpoints should be publicly advertised in advance. Failure to advertise the checkpoint in advance, alone, will not make the DUI checkpoint illegal.
If you are arrested for DUI after being stopped at a checkpoint, it is essential to have a Los Angeles DUI attorney who is familiar with these factors and can challenge the constitutionality of the checkpoint based on exactly what transpired during the DUI stop.
Can I really be stopped without probable cause?
Yes. If the DUI checkpoint meets the requirements, you can be stopped without any kind of individual suspicion. However, officers must have probable cause in order to arrest you.
What are my rights at a DUI checkpoint in Los Angeles?
If you enter a checkpoint, you are required to stop for inspection. However, during the stop you have the same rights you would have during any other traffic stop. You must provide your license and registration if asked. You may refuse to answer any questions during the stop.
Additionally, officers may not ask questions unrelated to the checkpoint. For example, because the checkpoint is related to driving under the influence, officers are permitted to ask whether you have consumed any alcohol or other drugs, and related questions, such as how much you consumed and when. However, the officers are not permitted to ask questions unrelated to the checkpoint, such as immigration status.
You do not have to consent to a search of your person or vehicle. You may refuse to perform field sobriety tests. You may also refuse to blow into the PAS (Preliminary Alcohol Screening) Device, also known as a Breathalyzer. However, if arrested for a DUI, you are required to consent to a chemical blood alcohol test under California law. If you refuse, you may face a year-long suspension of your driver’s license and an additional 48 hours in jail if you are convicted of DUI. If you are arrested for a DUI, you have the right to request a blood or breath alcohol test.
What if I haven’t been drinking alcohol but I have been smoking marijuana?
DUI checkpoints are not limited to driving under the influence of alcohol, and drivers can be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana. Although recreational marijuana was legalized by the passage of Proposition 64, driving under the influence of marijuana is still prohibited.
Because of a concern that legalization of recreational marijuana would lead to an increase in marijuana-related driving under the influence, law enforcement has stepped up its enforcement of marijuana DUIs. Officers at checkpoints will be looking for any signs that would allow them to arrest drivers for driving under the influence of marijuana, including the smell of marijuana, glassy or red eyes, or any visible marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia.
How do I find out where DUI checkpoints are in the L.A. area?
Most police departments announce DUI checkpoints in advance through press releases and social media. They will also usually publish the announcement on their websites, usually in a “news” or “press” section. For example, the LAPD announces DUI checkpoints at lapdonline.org/newsroom.
Additionally, local news and newspapers, neighborhood pages, and apps, such as Waze, sometimes report on local checkpoints.
For updates on DUI checkpoints close to you, check out these websites:
- CA DUI Checkpoint Locations Facebook page
- Los Angeles County
- Orange County
- Riverside County
- San Bernardino County
Time is of the Essence: Call a Los Angeles DUI Attorney Now
If you have been charged with a DUI offense after being stopped at a checkpoint, it is essential to hire a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles who is experienced at challenging the legality of DUI checkpoints, in addition to challenging the evidence in typical DUI cases. The attorneys at Moaddel Law Firm are experienced in attacking the legality of DUI checkpoints, as well as defending misdemeanor and felony DUI cases.
It is crucial to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can jump into action immediately, and potentially prevent the District Attorney’s Office from filing charges against you at all. Additionally, if you want to avoid a suspended driver’s license, you must contest the suspension at a DMV hearing. You must request your DMV hearing within ten days or you will lose the opportunity to contest the suspension. An attorney can request the hearing for you, as well as defend your rights at the hearing.
You face even worse consequences if convicted: heavy fines, restitution, and even jail time. Your future is on the line, so make sure you have trusted legal representation in your corner!
Arrested for DUI? Call Moaddel Law Firm right away—(877) 375-8188.
 Michigan State Police Dept. v. Sitz (1990) 496 U.S. 444.
 Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321
 Vehicle Code § 2814.2(a).
 People v. Valenzuela (1994) 28 Cal.App.4th 817, 826.
 Vehicle Code 23612(h).
 Vehicle Code § 23612.
 Vehicle Code § 23612(d).