One common question that people ask is, "Are DUI Checkpoints even legal?"
Like many other questions, the answer is that it depends on the circumstances the facts involved.
The man case that helped carve out this "DUI Exception" to the Constitution, that deprives a citizen of their constitutional rights absent even an individualized suspicion of a crime being committed is the Ingersol Case. It was decided by the supreme court of the United States in 1987. The factors set forth in Ingersol state that checkpoints are NOT to catch drunk drivers. They are, "Primarily for the regulatory purpose of keeping intoxicated drivers off the highways to the end of enhancing public safety." The eight factors enumerated in Ingersol, that must be met for a checkpoint to pass constitutional muster include:
1. Decision making at the supervisory level: They means that the rank and file officers who are performing their duties at the checkpoint are not the ones making the decisions on when, where, what, how and when the checkpoints to be operated. As stated in Ingersol, "The decision to establish a sobriety checkpoint, the selection of the site and the procedures for the checkpoint operation should be made and established by supervisory law enforcement personnel, and not by an offender in the field. This requirement is important to reduce the potential for arbitrary and capricious enforcement." Ingersol further elaborates the courts reasoning, "In each of the sobriety checkpoint projects her, the decision to implement the checkpoints, the site selection and the establishment of operational procedures were made or done by common level personnel, and detailed program regulations were promulgated.
2. Limits on discretion of filed officers as to who is to be stopped. This is similar to number 1, but varies in part. It means the officers who are working the checkpoint can't arbitrarily vary the method used to stop and check people. If the checkpoint is designed to be every 3rd vehicle, it must stay that way, even if the officer decides he wants to stop a different car absent individualized suspicion of criminal conduct.
3. Maintenance of safety condition: The primary consideration is motorist safety. Proper lighting, warning signs and signals, and clearly identifiable official vehicles and personnel are necessary to minimize the risk of danger to motorists and police. Other considerations include the volume of traffic. The lane closures and road signs complied with all Caltrans safety guidelines.
4. Time and Duration: The time and setting should be proper to be effective, safe, and minimize the intrusiveness.
5. Indicia of Official Nature of Roadblock: Clearly visible warning lights and other signs of authority have been present in most of the checkpoints upheld by the courts in other stats. Most of the checkpoints that have been found unlawful have failed to provide adequate warning to motorists.
6. Length and Nature of Detention: The court stated that minimizing the average time each motorist is detained is critical to reducing intrusiveness of the stop on the individual driver and maintaining safety along with traffic issues.
7. Advance Publicity: The Ingersol court found, that to be Constitutional, any checkpoint must have advance publicity. This is important to the maintenance of a constitutionally permissible sobriety checkpoint, reduces the intrusiveness of eh stop and increases the deterrent effect of the roadblock.
The central valley is a DUI Hot Spot. Checkpoints are very common. Fresno City Police, Selma, Kingsburg, Visalia, Tulare County, Fresno County and other law enforcement agencies commonly conduct checkpoints. It is important to remember there are rules, laws, that must be complied with. While law enforcement is aware of this, their belief of compliance isn't always in line with the courts interpretation of the laws and requirements.
Fresno conducted as DUI checkpoint this last weekend on November 15th.
31 people were arrested, but only 13 for DUI.
"Thirteen drivers were arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs Saturday night during a sobriety and driver's license checkpoint on West Shields Avenue, east of North West Avenue, Fresno police said.An additional 18 drivers were arrested for operating a vehicle with a suspended license. Those drivers were cited, released and their cars were impounded.Saturday's operation was funded through a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grant under the California Office of Traffic Safety."
The numbers alone, that 31 people were arrested and less than half were from DUI suspicions is alarming. It may indicate that the checkpoints are unconstitutionally intrusive and exceed the scope of their design. While law enforcement's results are well advertised, there is not indication that they themselves did or did not follow the law Supreme Court of California's ruling. It would seem that law enforcement would want to show that they are following the law themselves. This is a Criminal Defense Attorney's job, to look over the actions of the police, the facts of the case, and advise on how to proceed.
Call Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney Jonathan Rooker Today!