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San Diego Sobriety Checkpoints

Are DUI Roadblocks Legal? Where, When and How

Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal?

San Diego Sobriety Checkpoint Advisories

Dealing with a Sobriety Checkpoint Stop

 

Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal in California? Generally speaking, the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. This includes protecting citizens from being stopped without a search warrant and require, at a minimum, that a police officer have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause to briefly detain a citizen to investigate his suspicion that the individual is involved in some illegal conduct.

However, on June 14, 1990 the United States Supreme Court held in the case Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 that an exception to the fourth Amendment exists; now called the “sobriety checkpoint”. The sobriety checkpoint stop is intended to both deter and apprehend drivers operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The U.S. Supreme Court did state that certain criteria or safeguards should be followed to render such stops Constitutionally permissible.

In 1987, in the case Ingersoll v. Palmer, 743 P.2d 1299 ( Cal. 1987) the California Supreme Court defined specific guidelines to ensure that police procedure at the DUI Roadblocks complied with Constitutional theories. The California Supreme Court promulgated eight primary factors to be followed to assess and minimize the intrusiveness of the checkpoint stop. All eight factors need not be found, just that a majority be in place and followed. In others words, it’s broadly termed and allows for some deviation.

The eight sobriety checkpoint factors to be considered are:

  1. Law enforcement decision powers concerning the implementation of the sobriety checkpoint be made at a supervisory level
  2. Discretion of the non-supervisory police officer is limited
  3. The location and system where the checkpoint is held must be safe for motorists
  4. The location for the checkpoint must be reasonable
  5. Time and duration of the checkpoint is limited and short term
  6. There is an official nature of the roadblock
  7. The duration and nature of the detention or stop is reasonable and not excessive
  8. Advance publicity (notice) – No longer considered.

To briefly explain the above-mentioned Ingersoll factors considered in designing a legally acceptable sobriety checkpoint, there must be command responsibility overseeing the establishment and maintenance of the checkpoint such that the law enforcement agency is accountable. The command must promulgate the checkpoint so that it is safe and the activity within complies with the rule of law.

The location selected by the supervising agency must be reasonable and safe so that drivers are not put in harms way. Thus, the sobriety checkpoint location must be easily seen with adequate signs, lighting and have safe and easy ingress and egress. Additionally, the checkpoint must have clearly marked areas for a driver to pull over. Standard traffic cones and/or some form marking should be used to direct drivers to an area in a way that avoids confusion and risk.

The vehicle selected for inspection cannot be randomly selected. To prevent any randomness, the law enforcement agency in charge of the checkpoint must pre-determine which, when and where vehicles will be stopped. An example of this is when the station command pre-determines that every fifth vehicle will be stopped for a random check. This is to prevent the field officers from having too much discretion concerning which vehicles they will stop or not and helps prevent discrimination based on race, age, gender and other factors.

Furthermore, the duration of the stop must be limited such that its intrusiveness is minimized as much as possible to preserve Fourth Amendments rights. This can allegedly be accomplished by the station command instructing the field officers as to what questions to ask and how to determine if a drivers should undergo further investigation for suspicion of DUI.

The eighth factor regarding advance publicity is no longer considered per the Court ruling in People v. Banks, 13 Cal. Rptr. 2d 920 (1992). In San Diego County, sobriety checkpoints are typically announced via the media ( ie, North County Times Newspaper ) but lack specifications as to exact locations and times that the roadblocks will be established. Madd encourages public awareness as a means of deterrence.

Article written by
San Diego DUI Attorney James Patterson of The San Diego DUI Law Offices of G. Cole Casey, A.P.C.

 

Back to Top of San Diego Sobriety Checkpoints Page
 

San Diego DUI Checkpoint Advisories

SHERIFF

Are DUI Roadblocks Legal? Where, When and How

Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal?

San Diego Sobriety Checkpoint Advisories

Dealing with a Sobriety Checkpoint Stop

 

Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal in California? Generally speaking, the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. This includes protecting citizens from being stopped without a search warrant and require, at a minimum, that a police officer have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause to briefly detain a citizen to investigate his suspicion that the individual is involved in some illegal conduct.

However, on June 14, 1990 the United States Supreme Court held in the case Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 that an exception to the fourth Amendment exists; now called the “sobriety checkpoint”. The sobriety checkpoint stop is intended to both deter and apprehend drivers operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The U.S. Supreme Court did state that certain criteria or safeguards should be followed to render such stops Constitutionally permissible.

In 1987, in the case Ingersoll v. Palmer, 743 P.2d 1299 ( Cal. 1987) the California Supreme Court defined specific guidelines to ensure that police procedure at the DUI Roadblocks complied with Constitutional theories. The California Supreme Court promulgated eight primary factors to be followed to assess and minimize the intrusiveness of the checkpoint stop. All eight factors need not be found, just that a majority be in place and followed. In others words, it’s broadly termed and allows for some deviation.

The eight sobriety checkpoint factors to be considered are:

  1. Law enforcement decision powers concerning the implementation of the sobriety checkpoint be made at a supervisory level
  2. Discretion of the non-supervisory police officer is limited
  3. The location and system where the checkpoint is held must be safe for motorists
  4. The location for the checkpoint must be reasonable
  5. Time and duration of the checkpoint is limited and short term
  6. There is an official nature of the roadblock
  7. The duration and nature of the detention or stop is reasonable and not excessive
  8. Advance publicity (notice) – No longer considered.

To briefly explain the above-mentioned Ingersoll factors considered in designing a legally acceptable sobriety checkpoint, there must be command responsibility overseeing the establishment and maintenance of the checkpoint such that the law enforcement agency is accountable. The command must promulgate the checkpoint so that it is safe and the activity within complies with the rule of law.

The location selected by the supervising agency must be reasonable and safe so that drivers are not put in harms way. Thus, the sobriety checkpoint location must be easily seen with adequate signs, lighting and have safe and easy ingress and egress. Additionally, the checkpoint must have clearly marked areas for a driver to pull over. Standard traffic cones and/or some form marking should be used to direct drivers to an area in a way that avoids confusion and risk.

The vehicle selected for inspection cannot be randomly selected. To prevent any randomness, the law enforcement agency in charge of the checkpoint must pre-determine which, when and where vehicles will be stopped. An example of this is when the station command pre-determines that every fifth vehicle will be stopped for a random check. This is to prevent the field officers from having too much discretion concerning which vehicles they will stop or not and helps prevent discrimination based on race, age, gender and other factors.

Furthermore, the duration of the stop must be limited such that its intrusiveness is minimized as much as possible to preserve Fourth Amendments rights. This can allegedly be accomplished by the station command instructing the field officers as to what questions to ask and how to determine if a drivers should undergo further investigation for suspicion of DUI.

The eighth factor regarding advance publicity is no longer considered per the Court ruling in People v. Banks, 13 Cal. Rptr. 2d 920 (1992). In San Diego County, sobriety checkpoints are typically announced via the media ( ie, North County Times Newspaper ) but lack specifications as to exact locations and times that the roadblocks will be established. Madd encourages public awareness as a means of deterrence.

Article written by
San Diego DUI Attorney James Patterson of The San Diego DUI Law Offices of G. Cole Casey, A.P.C.

 

Back to Top of San Diego Sobriety Checkpoints Page
 

San Diego DUI Checkpoint Advisories

SHERIFF