DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints, are special road stops where law enforcement officers check drivers for signs of intoxication or impairment. Sobriety checkpoints are used as part of law enforcements’ larger impaired driving deterrence program. If a driver is found to be impaired by drugs and/or alcohol, the police officer can arrest them and charge them with a DUI.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
Each state has different laws about DUI checkpoints. Some states do not allow them while others do but with specific restrictions. In California, police must have probably cause to stop a motorist. This means that the motorist must have committed a traffic violation, have a defect on their vehicle which effects safety or displayed driving patterns that indicate intoxication.
The law also allows officers to set up DUI sobriety checkpoints. This is the exception to the “probable” rule. These systematic traffic stops are used to identify and deter impaired driving. Though DUI checkpoints are legal in California, there are specific rules outlined by the California Supreme Court that officers must follow to ensure the checkpoint remains legal:
- The checkpoint must be reasonably located
- The checkpoint’s time and duration should reflect “good judgment”
- Roadblocks should be publicly advertised in advance
- The criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral
- Drivers should be detained a minimal amount of time
- Supervising officers must make all operational decisions
- Adequate safety precautions must be taken
- The checkpoint must exhibit sufficient indicia of its official nature
Keep in mind that though DUI Checkpoints may seem intimidating, the police are only after drunk drivers and are not looking to arrest sober drivers.
What Happens at a DUI Checkpoint?
When you come across a DUI checkpoint you will likely be asked to stop and roll down your window. The officer will ask for your license and registration and may ask you other questions to engage you in dialogue to see if you have been drinking alcohol or using marijuana. The office will be looking for signs of intoxication including:
- Fumbling over words or handing the officer your license
- Smell of alcohol
- Evidence of alcohol and/or drugs in the vehicle
- Slurred speech, water and red eyes or other physical signs of impairment
Officers will have those they suspect of DUI take a field sobriety test. A field sobriety test (FST) is a series of exercises that helps police determine if you are impaired. Poor performance on a field sobriety test is usually seen as an indication of impairment. Exercises can include walking a straight line, reciting the alphabet, balancing on one leg and more. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that only three of the traditional field sobriety tests are effective in detecting a drunk driver and include nystagmus, one-leg-stand and walk-and-turn.
If you are stopped at a DUI Checkpoint, be sure to remain calm and be polite. Those who have not been drinking will be ushered through the checkpoint quickly and sent on their way. Remember that the officers at the checkpoint are not out to get innocent drivers, but are working to get drunk drivers off the road.
Why Are DUI Checkpoints Important?
DUI Checkpoints serve an important purpose by keeping drunk drivers off the road and reducing the number of drunk driving-related accidents. They accomplish this in many ways. For example, because DUI checkpoints must be legally advertised before they are implemented, they work to remind people not to drink and drive. Research also shows that DUI checkpoints save tax payers money. Every year tax payers spend over $100 billion on alcohol-related crashes. DUI checkpoints have been shown to save communities between $6 and $23 for every dollar spent on the checkpoint.
What If I Am Injured By a Drunk Driver?
Though DUI checkpoints are successful in getting many drunk drivers off the road, they cannot get them all. When drunk drivers take to the roads, it often ends in tragedy and usually for an innocent victim. Statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) show that every two minutes someone is injured by a drunk driver in the US. Other research shows that 10,076 people were killed and another 290,000 were injured in 2013 in drunk driving crashes.
If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident, it is important to know your rights. When someone drinks and drives, they are not only breaking the law but acting in a negligent way. When you are attempting to seek compensation for your injuries, you must be able to prove negligence. When someone was drinking and driving and caused the crash and your injuries, they can be held responsible for paying you damages. This can include compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost income related to your injuries. If you are recovering from injuries you sustained in a crash caused by a drunk driver, be sure to speak to a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney today for help. Your attorney will offer sound legal advice on the best way to approach your case, as well as help you throughout the entire process.