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Focus on Bay Area sobriety checkpoint operations

“Somewhere within the Oakland area.”

That was the advance locale reference provided last week by the California Highway Patrol regarding a sobriety checkpoint operation conducted in the Bay Area.

That was the advance locale reference provided last week by the California Highway Patrol regarding a sobriety checkpoint operation conducted in the Bay Area.

It was good enough. An overview of DUI checkpoints in California notes that such initiatives are legal. State law mandates that a checkpoint (sometimes termed roadblock) must be advertised in a timely manner. It does not require enforcement officials to provide details about where an operation will occur.

There are other legal stipulations that are also relevant to a checkpoint. They must all be obeyed to render it constitutionally acceptable.

There must a supervising arm at the scene, for example. It is imperative that all decisions be made by officers who are clearly in charge. Stopping criteria must be neutral for all motorists. A checkpoint must be safe and reasonably located. And motorists should be dealt with as quickly as possible. Reasonable efforts must be made to not inconvenience them.

Drivers sometimes complain that roadblocks violate the constitutional ban against unreasonable search and seizure. An officer clearly lacks individualized probable cause to closely interact with a motorist in such an operation. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling rebuts that argument, stressing that checkpoints are an exception to the general rule.

Still, roadblocks can be legally challenged on grounds that they failed to satisfy one or more of the above operational standards.

Questions regarding sobriety checkpoints can be directed to an experienced Bay Area criminal defense attorney.

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