The Los Angeles DUI Law Blog

The Where, What, and How of DUI Checkpoints

With law enforcement cracking down on drunken driving across the nation, the use of DUI checkpoints is becoming increasingly popular. But what exactly are they and how are they legal?

Here's the what, where, and how of DUI checkpoints:

What and Where Are DUI Checkpoints?

DUI checkpoints, also called sobriety checkpoints or roadside safety checks, are locations where law enforcement officers are stationed to stop and question motorists in order to determine whether or not they are drunk or otherwise impaired.

Checkpoints typically consist of police roadblocks at busy thoroughfares at which motorists are randomly selected for screening. Some jurisdictions heavily publicize dates and times of DUI checkpoints, particularly ones conducted at peak times of alcohol consumption such as Halloween and New Year's Eve, in an effort to deter drunk driving.

To pass through a checkpoint unscathed, it's important for drivers to be on their best behavior and avoid DUI checkpoint "no-nos".

How Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

The U.S. Supreme Court held that DUI checkpoints do not constitute an unreasonable search and seizure and therefore don't violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court reasoned that the needs of the state to prevent drunken driving accidents outweigh the minimal intrusion on sober drivers who are ensnared in the stop-and-go checkpoint brouhaha.

Sobriety checkpoints are not conducted in 12 states. Some states prohibit them by state law or constitution (or interpretation of state law or constitution). Texas prohibits them based on its interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

However, even in California -- which is among the 38 states and Washington D.C. that conduct sobriety checkpoints -- not all roadside sobriety checkpoints are necessarily set up and administered in a constitutionally permissible manner. In general, the legality of a DUI checkpoint in California will depend on a number of factors.

As for the legality of that specific checkpoint 'round your corner, we'd recommend discussing the matter with a local DUI attorney.

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