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Sobriety checkpoints: California's legal parameters

Many motorists in Alameda County and elsewhere across California have never encountered a sobriety checkpoint set up by a local police department or other law enforcement agency.

Many have, though, with tales to tell in the aftermath.

Some of those stories are marked by a stark downside. The consequences following a California DUI conviction are typically multiple and severe. They include fines, jail time, license suspension and more.

Which brings us back to that sobriety checkpoint reference. What are the legal guidelines relevant to enforcers setting up and administering a checkpoint, and what can a motorist be tasked to do if targeted for a stop and examination?

Sobriety checkpoint basics in California

For starters, a checkpoint cannot be established without any signs or notice that it is in operation. Moreover, it cannot selectively target particular motorists for special scrutiny. Although there is no specific process that must be followed in every instance, whatever strategy is employed for stopping drivers must be neutral and scrupulously enforced.

As to driver detentions, they must be focused and not unduly leisurely. That means that an officer must proceed with dispatch when checking for impairment.

If none is found, a driver should be free to leave immediately.

What if an officer believes a motorist is impaired?

A DUI determination made at a sobriety checkpoint is no different than a similar police assessment rendered under any other scenario. There must be probable cause to allege a motorist is driving drunk and to prolong an encounter that might result in things like field sobriety testing and blood or breath tests.

Questions or concerns regarding a sobriety checkpoint or any other aspect of a drunk driving arrest or conviction can be directed to a proven DUI defense attorney.

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