The Law Offices of David A. Welch

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DUI Checkpoint Defense

DUI Checkpoint Defense Strategy

As a member of the California State Bar and DUI defense attorney with over two decades of practice in Southern California courts, I frequently defend individuals who have been arrested in DUI Checkpoints.

Specific legal arguments can be raised in order to challenge the validity of a checkpoint. The governing case in DUI Checkpoint defense is the landmark Ingersoll v. Palmer sobriety checkpoint case.  In this case the California Supreme Court determined the constitutionality of checkpoints to be determined by compliance with specific requirements. Any one of the missing elements can lead to a case being reduced or even dismissed regardless of the defendants Blood Alcohol Level or state of intoxication. Clearly no stone should be left unturned when reviewing each and every requirement.

In the landmark case Ingersoll v. Palmer, the California Supreme Court carved out an exemption to the "search and seizure" rule that would pave the way for twenty-five years of DUI checkpoints.

At stake in a checkpoint is a potential violation of our Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure my law enforcement. Courts have determined that checkpoints can be an exception to law enforcement contact and likened DUI checkpoints to agricultural checkpoints and airport screenings to avoid Fourth Amendment issues.

Ingersoll sets forth the following points in evaluating constitutionality of a checkpoint:

  • Decision making by supervisors: This is important to ensure that checkpoints aren't set up in "arbitrary and capricious" locations.
  • Limits on discretion of field officers: This involves a random selection of drivers according to a preset pattern (every second driver, for example) are suggested to avoid abuse.
  • Maintenance of safety conditions: The court indicated that bright lights and signs were necessary.
  • Reasonable location: The location should be based on relevant factors, such as areas with a high incidence of DUI or DUI accidents.
  • Time and duration: The checkpoint should be set to optimize its effectiveness.
  • Indicia of official nature of roadblock: There should be signage informing drivers of the checkpoint as drivers approach. Drivers should not be pulled over for avoiding the checkpoint, unless they violate a law to do so.
  • Length and nature of detention: The time of the stop should be minimized so as to not infringe upon individual's rights. If no signs of intoxication exist, the driver should be allowed to exit the checkpoint. If there are signs, the driver can be directed to a secondary area for further evaluation.  
  • Advance publicity: This refers to press releases informing the public of the checkpoint. The court in People v. Banks eliminated publicity as a requirement. 

Our office reviews each factor in evaluating checkpoints in order to mount the best possible defense. Contact us at anytime to discuss your case.

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