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3 FAQs about sobriety checkpoints in California

On Behalf of | Dec 3, 2022 | DUI

While out having fun, people often misjudge how much alcohol they have consumed.

Considering that 26.3% of California traffic deaths involved a driver over the legal BAC limit, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, the state conducts more than 2,500 checkpoints annually to combat the problem. For some people, the legality behind these checkpoints may seem unclear.

1. Can law enforcement legally have checkpoints?

Both the state and federal constitutions consider checkpoints legal. Police officers have permission to set up a short-term location with roadblocks to determine the sobriety of drivers. While legal, officers must follow strict protocols, including a neutral process pre-determined by an administrative officer or team. Key requirements include publicly announcing the checkpoint location in advance, ensuring stops remain short and having an established, neutral method for stopping vehicles, such as every fifth vehicle.

2. Can people avoid a checkpoint?

Avoiding a checkpoint comes with no legal ramifications. The officers conducting it have no legitimate reason to pull a driver over as long as the driver adheres to traffic laws. People who decide to turn around must ensure the legality of the U-turn and give off no perception of impaired driving.

3. What happens at a sobriety check?

Similar to any other stop, an officer will request a driver’s license and registration. The officer will then engage in conversation, looking for signs of alcohol impairment. Difficulty speaking, slurring words, fumbling for documents and the smell of alcohol may provide enough proof to conduct a field sobriety test.

For people approaching a checkpoint, staying polite, calm and in control typically make it a smooth process.