If you are driving through Oakland or Freemont, and see a line of cars stopping ahead, you may have run into a police sobriety checkpoint. For most drivers, it can be an inconvenience and a hassle. However, for someone who has just had one or two drinks, it may cause real anxiety because of the threat of an arrest for driving under the influence, even when they are not intoxicated. People have a lot of questions about sobriety checkpoints here in the East Bay. Are DUI checkpoints even legal? What is the purpose of a DUI checkpoint? What should you do when confronted by an officer at a sobriety checkpoint?
Both California and the U.S. Supreme courts have ruled that DUI checkpoints are lawful so long as certain guidelines are met. The court considers sobriety checkpoints to be administrative inspections, and therefore an exception to traditional requirement of probable cause to stop a driver. DUI checkpoint locations are based on DUI and collision statistics, and located to maximize deterrence. California sobriety checkpoints are required to have neutral criteria for stopping cars, must have safety precautions in point, drivers should be stopped only briefly, and the checkpoints should be publicized in advance.
In some cases, police or California Highway Patrol may issue press releases or notices on their websites in advance of a planned checkpoint. Local news outlets often report on DUI locations, and there are even websites and phone apps that notify users of where and when sobriety checkpoints are going to take place, such as California DUI Checkpoints facebook page. It may seem counter intuitive to advertise DUI roadblocks, but one of the main purposes of DUI checkpoints is to deter DUIs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says the purpose is to maximize the deterrent effect, and increase the public perception of risk of apprehension to motorists.
Berkeley uses their own website to notify residents of upcoming DUI checkpoints, including cross street locations and the time and date. In their notices, the Berkeley Police Department notes the deterrent effects of checkpoints, cites DUI statistics, and informs drivers of what the police will be looking for. Specifically, officers will ask for a valid license and proof of insurance, while looking for signs of alcohol or drug impairment. If you are unclear on what you should do when stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, check out my blog post on “What To Do If You Get Stopped.”
Almost 90 percent of California drivers support the use of DUI checkpoints. The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) provides funding support for cities to carry out DUI checkpoints. According to OTS, in 2013, DUIs were involved in over 800 deaths in California. The NHTSA indicates that sobriety checkpoints provide the most effective documented results of any DUI enforcement strategies, and save an estimated $6 for every $1 spent.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has specialized in defending people in the East Bay charged with a DUI for over 30 years. In that time, she has personally handed hundreds of cases involving people arrested at DUI checkpoints, successfully defending them both in Court and in Administrative Per Se hearings with the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you have been arrested for a DUI here in the East Bay, there is still time to keep the conviction off your record. You do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested. Contact a local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands local DUI law, and will make sure you get the justice you deserve.