Sobriety Checkpoints

A sobriety checkpoint is the most common type of police barricade that those of us in America are sometimes required to go through. A checkpoint is essentially a roadblock where police check the driver to determine whether they are intoxicated. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. This means that the general rule is that police need reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull a vehicle over and make a stop. Police roadblocks and DUI checkpoints obviously infringe upon this rule.

The California Supreme Court in Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321 laid out the guidelines that police must follow in order to conduct a legal checkpoint:

Guidelines Before The DUI Checkpoint:

  • Location of Sobriety Checkpoint Made By Supervisor
  • Reasonable Location: Checkpoint must be in a reasonable location
  • Advance Publicity: There must be advance publicity of the checkpoint

Guidelines During The DUI Checkpoint:

  • Limits on Discretion of Field Officers: Neutral formula for stopping car
  • Maintenance of Safety Conditions: Proper lighting, warning signs, etc.
  • Time and Duration: Time and duration of roadblock is a factor in its legality
  • Indicia of Official Nature of Roadblock: Clearly visible warning lights and signs
  • Length and Nature of Detention: Detention only long enough to determine intoxication
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