DUI checkpoints were determined to be legal by the United States Supreme Court; however, there are strict guidelines which must be followed. In California, many drivers do not know about these rules. For example, police must use a neutral mathematical formula, such as every driver, or every third, fifth, or tenth driver to determine who to stop. So an officer may not stop an individual driver without a legitimate basis. Furthermore, police operating DUI checkpoints may only detain each driver long enough to question him/her and look for signs of intoxication, such as alcohol on breath, slurred speech, and glassy or bloodshot eyes. If the driver does not display signs of impairment, he/she should be permitted to leave without any further delay. If the driver is ordered out of the vehicle and asked to perform a field sobriety test (i.e. walking in a straight line, touching your nose or reciting the alphabet), he/she may refuse. The officer may also ask to search the car. The driver may refuse that request as the officers do not have legal grounds to search the car. Many times, officers don't follow all the rules. In such instances, the stop may be considered illegal, and any evidence establishing the crime of driving under the influence may be thrown out. The California case controlling this area is Ingersoll v Palmer 241 Cal. Rptr. 42 (Cal. 1987).
However, if impairment is observed, then the driver may be taken to a separate area for field sobriety tests and further investigation, which must be based on probable cause.
In Orange County, the Garden Grove and Santa Ana police departments conducted DUI checkpoints from 7 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. on Sunday, December 13, 2009. The checkpoints were planned for Westminster Avenue near Enterprise Drive and Susan Street. Officials say there have been many fatal collisions involving drunk drivers on Westminster Avenue. The California government website reports that "early 23,000 people are killed every year in alcohol-related traffic collisions" and "one American life is lost every 22 minutes in an alcohol-related traffic collision." Officers also look for those driving without a valid license. The checkpoints focused on drivers who have been drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs or abusing prescription medications while driving.
So please be weary of DUI checkpoints when you're out on the road, as the consequences for a DUI can be very serious. This can include license suspension, high fines and possible jail time. Most importantly, don't drink excessively-live to see the holidays next year.
Here is a Garden Grove TV3 News Video which covers the Garden Grove Police Department sobriety checkpoint on October 24, 2009: