Holiday DUI Checkpoints – Are Drunk Driving Checkpoints Legal?
It is not your imagination there truly are more law enforcement officers on the roads during the holiday season and consequently there’s a greater likelihood that you could be arrested for DUI. For the 2009-2010 Holiday Season the dates of this stepped up period of enforcement in the San Francisco Bay Area will be December 18, 2009 by January 3, 2010. To view a schedule of roadside checkpoints in your area go to californiaavoid.org.
Beginning in 1973 the Santa Clara chapter of Avoid has made it their mission to reduce fatalities that consequence from drunk driving during the holiday seasons. To do this 125 participating law enforcement agencies and 9 Bay Area Counties coordinate their efforts to include public awareness campaigns, additional officers by increased funds for overtime and roadside checkpoints. Drunk driving arrests peak during the holidays. Last year during the 2008 holiday period, Avoid reported that there were 827 DUI arrests in Santa Clara County alone.
Are Checkpoints Constitutional?
The argument has been made that DUI checkpoints are an infringement of the Fourth Amendment, which protects us against unreasonable search and seizure. While twelve states uphold this belief and do not allow checkpoints, California is not one of them. Furthermore, probable cause is not needed. The Supreme Court ruled, in 1990 that the infringement of citizen’s rights caused by DUI checkpoints was overshadowed by the possible public assistance of removing impaired and dangerous drivers from the roads. The Supreme Court additional and California adopted the following stipulations that must be adhered to, in order for the stops to be legal:
o Checkpoints must be published in improvement
o Locations of checkpoints are to be picked based on drunk driving statistics
o Time frame must be scheduled for effectiveness and minimum intrusiveness
o Roadside stops must be made according to a formula – not by random or profile targeting
o Alternate driving routes must be obtainable
o Warning lights and signs must be clearly visible to alert drivers of slow downs and hazards
o Drivers cannot be detained beyond what is minimally necessary
o A supervisor is required to authorize all actions, not arresting officers
already if you have not been drinking, a roadblock with a checkpoint can make anyone feel nervous. Remember that holiday checkpoints are for public safety and they are not meant to be harassment. Keep in mind the above requirements for checkpoints to be constitutional. For your part, you must know your rights so that you don’t self incriminate.
Can the officer ask if you have been drinking?
You can be asked if you have been drinking but you should be advised that anything you say can and will be used against you. It is better to say nothing. Don’t convict yourself. It is your job to protect your fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.
Can your car be searched?
For your car to be searched there must be probable cause. If an officer asks if they may search your means you may politely refuse. Remember anything you say can be used against you so don’t offer additional information.
Do you need to submit to sobriety testing if stopped?
Most States including California have implied consent laws whereby refusal to take a field sobriety test results in automatic, one-year suspension of your driving privilege. This suspension can be challenged by a DMV hearing. What is more, you can nevertheless be convicted of driving under the influence if there is other evidence that you have been drinking which could include the presence of empty bottles of alcohol or the smell of alcohol on your breath. If given a choice between a blood test and a breathalyzer you might want to opt for the latter as breathalyzer results are less reliable and can be challenged in court by experts.
What if you only had one drink?
Remember that it is not illegal to drink and excursion. It is only illegal to be drunk while driving. However, be very careful, because as little as.04% BAC (blood alcohol level) can average impairment.
.08% BAC is the legal limit under California law. consequently two drinks could put you over the limit depending upon your weight, what you had to eat and your physiological makeup. It is always better to have a designated driver. A BAC of higher that.15% can consequence in a harsher punishment. Other things such as prior DUI convictions can also consequence in harsher punishment known as enhancements.