Vista DUI Attorney prides itself as a law firm comprising of lawyers who are focused specifically on DUI cases. The lawyers have a solid track record working with clients from Vista, California. The law firm specializes in DUI related cases including DUI leading to injury and DUI homicide. You can also seek legal help from the firm regarding DUI charges received at a DUI checkpoint in California.
What is a DUI Checkpoint in California?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandates all US states to set up DUI checkpoints. NHTSA also encourages them to implement laws on using these checkpoints. The sobriety checkpoints are part of an enforcement strategy for minimizing impaired driving nationwide. NHTSA considers them as predetermined fixed locations for stopping and detecting drivers intoxicated by drugs/alcohol.
Vehicle Code 2814.2 under California laws considers DUI checkpoints legal in California. VC 2814.2(a) highlights that motorists should stop at the checkpoints when requested by a law enforcement officer. The roadblocks also exist randomly and on a temporary basis depending on the law enforcement agency. The officers need to stop motorists in an unbiased manner.
The “Ingersoll vs. Palmer” case, which was tried in the California Supreme Court, laid the rules for sobriety checkpoints in California. One of the rules states that the inspecting officers need to make operational decisions. They should also detain the motorists for a minimal time frame and observe the highest safety precautions. The CA Supreme Court also agreed that there should be road signs for the roadblocks, which lie in reasonable locations.
The Canter for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that these checkpoints minimize 1/10 of the deaths caused by impaired driving. The checkpoints help keep the roads safe by weeding out the impaired motorists. One must pass the sobriety tests at the DUI checkpoint to avoid facing DUI-related charges.
Stopping at the Checkpoint as Requested by the Police
VC 2814.2(a) highlights that motorists need to stop when requested to do so at DUI checkpoints in California. Though a driver can refuse to cooperate with the protocols at the checkpoint, he/she may be convicted of an infraction. One has a right to know why he/she was stopped before agreeing to take the sobriety tests.
Responding to Questions Posed by the Officers
Motorists have no legal mandate to answer the questions posed to them by police officers. One has to give his/her driver’s license or insurance card to the police for identity verification. The driver is also under no legal obligation to participate in irrelevant sobriety tests. They include blowing into a preliminary alcohol screening device or standing on one leg as well as several other tests.
Intentionally Avoiding the Checkpoint
Refusing to undergo testing for chemical intoxication can result in criminal and civil consequences. The jury may nullify these consequences if the defendant’s attorney proves that the police officer didn’t have any probable cause. A driver can turn around legally before reaching the DUI checkpoint to avoid getting tested since there’s no law against this action. One can only pursue this course of action when it’s safe.
What are the Things Police Officers are Allowed to Do or Not Do at DUI Checkpoints in California?
The actions of a police officer when handling a civilian at a DUI checkpoint can affect the outcome of the DUI charge. The jury may agree to dismiss the charges filed against the accused individual when the officer acted unlawfully. A DUI attorney can also file a motion to suppress or exclude incriminating evidence if the law enforcement officer violated the California laws on DUI checkpoints. Highlighted below are some of the things police officers should or shouldn’t do at sobriety checkpoints.
- Stopping Motorists on a Neutral Basis
An administrative officer is responsible for deciding the kind of vehicles to be stopped at a DUI checkpoint. For example, the officer may decide to have 6 consecutive cars stopped and allowing three to proceed. He/she may change this pattern to avoid profiling motorists in terms of gender, ethnicity or age.
- The Supervising Officer Must Make All Constitutional Legal Decisions
The supervising or administrative officer needs to make rational decisions regarding the sobriety screening process. He or she should decide on a suitable site location and method for selecting the vehicles. The officer must also set an appropriate date for the process to commence.
- Setting Reasonable Time, Duration and Location
A checkpoint can be operational for one or two days as long as the motorists don’t feel uncomfortable about the actions of the police officers. The time and duration should be reasonable to avoid interfering with the schedules of the motorists. The supervising officer should choose an area characterized by a high rate of drug/alcohol-related road accidents or arrests. Such a location would be more ideal for spotting and detaining impaired drivers.
- Informing People About DUI Checkpoints in Advance
Official releases from law enforcement agencies can help inform motorists about an upcoming crackdown on drunk or drugged driving. Police officers can also use local TV news, local news websites, and newspapers and police department websites. Most motorists tend to be careful while driving if there’s a notice about an upcoming sobriety checkpoint.
Law enforcement agencies can use apps to advise motorists about DUI checkpoints. The apps can report the exact location of police officers. They can also pinpoint the side of the road that the DUI checkpoints will be set up by relying on user-generated data.
- Implementing Safety Precautions
Safety precautions can help direct the drivers to safe ground for the sobriety tests. For example, the administrative officer can have lighting fixtures fixed for motorists to clearly see the roadblock. Other safety measures include notifying motorists about a roadblock near them and having an alternative plan for dealing with congestion.
- Detaining Motorists
Some sobriety tests end up with the motorist being detained for having high blood alcohol content or testing positive for other drugs. Officers should hold the arrested individual for a short time before he/she gets makes a court appearance. Most of them tend to detain motorists whose signs of being drunk or drugged are evident.
- Impounding Cars Belonging to Unlicensed Drivers
In 2012, the California VC 2814.2 (previously known as the Assembly Bill 353) was enacted by the California Legislature. The law forbids police officers and other law enforcement officers from promptly impounding a car at a DUI checkpoint. Such a situation can only be valid if the driver wasn’t in a possession of a valid license when driving. The police officers had the freedom of taking cars of unlicensed drivers from the checkpoint before 2012.
- Charging Drivers Found Without a Valid License
Law enforcement officers can detain a motorist for driving without a credible license (VC 12500). One can also be detained for driving with a suspended license (VC 146010). The police can charge the motorists for these offenses to instill a sense of credibility in them.
What Are the Citizen’s Legal Rights at a DUI Checkpoint in California?
Sobriety checkpoints allow law enforcement officers to assess a motorist from afar to determine whether he/she is drunk or drugged. Being a US citizen entitles one to certain constitutional rights, which are applicable in this scenario. Once one is arrested and charged with anycrime, he/she becomes a criminal defendant. The United States Constitution stipulates that being a criminal defendant entitles one to the following rights:
- Fourth Amendment Rights
The Fourth Amendment right protects criminal defendants against unwarranted seizures and searches. The officer conducting the searches must have a probable cause for doing so. One is exempted from being unreasonably searched by police officers at contexts such as DUI checkpoints. The police can’t use any illegally-obtained evidence against the accused individual in court.
- Fifth Amendment Right
Law enforcement officers have a habit of asking lots of questions when handling a motorist at a DUI checkpoint. To avoid double jeopardy and self-incrimination, one needs to be aware of his/her Fifth Amendment rights. Here’s how the bill works:
- Right Not to be Put in Double Jeopardy
Double jeopardy protects criminal defendants from getting charged twice for the same crime. The Fifth Amendment clause protects accused individuals from being placed in trial more than one for a similar offense. The clause suggests that a defendant can appear to a civil court once and criminal court once. He/she can also get charged in a state and federal court for the same offense.
- Right to Remain Silent
The “right to remain silent” clause protects a defendant for testifying against him/herself in a criminal case. The accused individual can testify against him/herself in a civil case as a witness. Also known as the Miranda Rights, this clause takes form during an arrest or a court hearing. The arresting police officer usually reads these rights to the defendant.
- Sixth Amendment Rights
Criminal defendants are entitled to the right to confront witnesses, right to a speedy trial and right to legal representation under the 6th Amendment Rights. The bill points out that the accused individual can be represented by a public defender if he/she can’t afford a lawyer. With the right to a speedy trial and a public jury trial, one’s criminal charges can be tried within a short time in a courtroom open to the press, family, and friends.
What is the Protocol for a DUI Checkpoint in California?
Thirty-eight US states including California legalized the adoption of DUI checkpoints. The protocol for setting up these roadblocks in California should be in accordance with the California Constitution and Supreme Court. The sobriety testing process should be reasonable in its conceptualization and execution. A state authority can be in charge of requesting for a sobriety checkpoint by giving reasons why it should be situated in a particular location.
The protocol for setting up a DUI checkpoint in California involves selecting an ideal location and the methods to be used. The law enforcement officers need to advertise the checkpoint earlier for public awareness. Setting the roadblocks up without notifying the public is an unlawful act.
Police officers should use a neutral approach when selecting the motorists for screening. The officer must state that the driver exhibits signs of being under the influence of drugs/alcohol. Behavior indicators for drug/alcohol abuse include slurred speech and swerving/speeding.
Safety precautions and measures required at the sobriety checkpoint include reflector jackets and adequate warnings. Police may also use clearly identifiable police vehicles and warning signs to prevent motorists from crashing into them.
The time limitations for checking one’s sobriety depend on the observation of the police officer. The officer can choose to stop the process if the motorist appears to be sober. Only the jury has the mandate to decide the length for each DUI charge conviction. Court judges also decide the penalty for an officer who unlawfully administered the sobriety tests.
What are the Legal Defenses for Someone Charged with a DUI at a DUI Checkpoint in California?
Officers stationed at sobriety checkpoints are usually keen on observing the drivers’ behaviors. They may open an investigation if one fails to pass the drug/alcohol test. The motorists may be asked to take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening breath test or carry out California DUI field sobriety tests.
The officer should prove that the defendant is guilty of DUI by limo, taxi or ride-sharing driver. Sobriety tests also enable the police to know whether the motorist was under drug influence (VC 23152(f). They help prove the driver had a BAC of .08 or greater (VC 23152(b) or the driver was under alcohol influence (VC 23152(a).
DUI cases involve the prosecution team proving that the defendant was intoxicated with drugs/alcohol or was driving a vehicle. The prosecutor should present the jury with evidence and facts to pursue the case. One needs to hire a competent DUI lawyer operating in California to get a fair hearing. Discussed below are some of the best legal defenses a DUI attorney can use.
- Introducing Witnesses Who Were at the Checkpoint
A DUI lawyer can challenge the prosecutor by bringing in witnesses to the court. The witnesses will share their observations, contrary to what the arresting officer said. An example of a reliable witness is a passenger in the car with an impaired driver.
- Challenging the Accuracy of the Officer’s Observations
In California, DUI charges are classified depending on the percentage of alcohol/drugs in one’s body. They are also classified depending on the actual impairment the alcohol/drugs had on the motorist. The arresting officer should provide his/her observations regarding these two components. Common observations include alcohol odor, reckless driving, bloodshot eyes and bizarre behavior.
Such observations enable the prosecution team to build a strong case against the defendant. The defendant’s lawyer should challenge the relevance of the officer’s observations to the case. One can get a better sentence after proving that the officer had wrong conclusions about the motorist’s sobriety.
- Unlawful Police Questioning
The Miranda warnings should be read to the individual suspected of impaired driving at the DUI checkpoint. Police officers should give these warnings to ensure that the suspect knows that he/she is being questioned for a DUI-related charge. A legal representative can argue in court that his/her client wasn’t given the Miranda warnings at the time of the arrest. The jury may consider the police questioning procedure unlawful.
- An Invalid Traffic Stop
VC 2814.2 points out that law enforcement officers need a probable cause for stopping one’s vehicle at a sobriety checkpoint. The officer should stop a motorist after believing that he/she was violating the California DUI laws. An officer can use his/her observations and the breath-test results as the probable cause for stopping one’s car.
A lawyer can argue that his/her client was stopped at a location that wasn’t regarded a DUI checkpoint by the California laws. The legal expert can also suggest to the jury that the police officers didn’t put up road signs notifying the drivers of a random sobriety test ahead of the road.
- Offering Valid Explanations on Personal Behavior and Appearance
One’s behavior and appearance can give a law enforcement officer a reason to carry out a sobriety test. If the driver has bloodshot eyes, acts in a bizarre way or emits drug/alcohol odor, the officer can conclude that he/she may be drunk/drugged. To counter this argument, the defendant’s lawyer should argue that his/her client exhibited these symptoms because of fatigue. The legal expert can also suggest that the symptoms may be as a result of irritants or allergies.
- Proving that the Test Results are Inaccurate
A DUI lawyer may need the help of a forensic chemist or a related expert to challenge the accuracy of the sobriety tests. Taking certain medication or food can make one test positive for abusing drugs/alcohol. Some food and drugs contain the same number of chemical compounds as drugs and alcohol. The DUI attorney needs to provide strong defenses for these case scenarios.
Speak to a DUI Attorney Near Me for Legal Advice on DUI Charges
Understanding the protocols followed at a DUI checkpoint can allow you to seek the best legal advice when in need. Though the legal defenses for DUI cases seem easy to formulate, you’ll need a proficient DUI lawyer to effectively incorporate them in your case. With over 60 years of combined experience and a 98.97 percent client satisfaction, Vista DUI Attorney has the DUI lawyers you need. You can reach us at 760-691-1540 to talk about your case.