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California is one several states that allow the use of DUI checkpoints by law enforcement agencies. While the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution has been interpreted to require that an officer cannot pull over a vehicle without reasonable or probable cause that the driver is violating the law, these DUI enforcement checkpoints are an exception to this rule. The rationale is that when DUI checkpoints are conducted in accordance with the specific guidelines set forth by the California Supreme Court, they serve as a general “administrative inspections” performed similar those conducted at airports.
The California Highway Patrol has stated that the specific purpose behind sobriety checkpoints is to reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road and to decrease the number of DUI related deaths and injuries. Law enforcement realize that these checkpoints, which are required to be publicized in advance, have a deterrent effect on DUI incidents and hope that drivers who know about extra DUI enforcement efforts and checkpoints will find alternatives to driving drunk.
Statistics show that there is a steep increase in DUI offenses committed during holiday weekends. People are more likely to be going to out to bars, parties and other social gatherings where alcohol is consumed to excess. As a result, more people are likely to drive drunk during holiday weekends than at other times. There is always a marked increase in DUI deaths and injuries over holiday weekends as well.
In order to comply with the California Supreme Court’s rules regarding DUI checkpoints as set forth in the Ingersoll v. Palmer case, the checkpoint must follow eight guidelines. There must be a supervising officer who makes all operational decisions regarding when, where and how a checkpoint is to operate. There must be completely neutral criteria set forth for determining which drivers to stop. The courts understand that officers cannot stop every driver passing through the checkpoint, so officers must establish criteria for stopping that are completely unbiased – such as stopping every third vehicle.
The DUI checkpoint must be situated in a location where there is a historically high rate of DUI incidents. This is usually around major intersections. In addition, the officers setting up the checkpoint must take necessary safety precautions. This means that the checkpoint must be clearly marked and visible to vehicles on the road. This is usually done with numerous signs and flashing lights.
The time and duration of a checkpoint should be set after considering elements such as the effectiveness of the checkpoint in relation to the burden it would place on drivers. It would not be proper to set up a DUI checkpoint at a notoriously busy intersection during the height of rush hour traffic.
In addition, the checkpoint must clearly appear official, drivers can only be detained long enough for the officer to quickly question the driver and see if there are any signs of intoxication and the checkpoint should be publicized in advance. While law enforcement agencies do not have to disclose the exact time and location of an upcoming checkpoint, they would have to provide general time and locations notifications.