Latest press release: San Bernardino County DUI Defense Lawyers Oppose Constitutionally Questionable DUI Checkpoints

California DUI defense lawyer James Knox, partner at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, offers advice on California roadside sobriety checkpoints.  If law enforcement officials violate a person’s rights at these checkpoints, a DUI defense lawyer can successfully have evidence suppressed and cases dismissed.

This year, many Californians will be stopped at roadside sobriety checkpoints. For drivers who face criminal charges following a DUI checkpoint stop, it is important to consider that not all checkpoints will be set up and administered in a manner permissible by law. Drivers who were cited, including for DUI, at a roadblock considered unlawful often have legal grounds for contesting the charges.   DUI defense lawyers Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP have often challenged the validity of checkpoint stops.

In order to be constitutional, DUI sobriety checkpoints must follow strict guidelines outlined by the California Supreme Court case Ingersoll v. Palmer, (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321.  When the standards laid out in Ingersoll are violated, evidence gathered during the stop may be suppressed.  Any resulting arrest may also be determined unlawful.

“Being pulled over at a checkpoint can be scary but, if you know your rights, there is no need to be intimidated by them,” said California DUI defense lawyer James Knox, partner at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox.  “Drivers are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures by the Fourth Amendment.”

In Ingersoll, the California Supreme Court laid out clear rules regarding how California roadside sobriety checkpoints must be set up. For example, the checkpoint must be publically advertised in advance via local newspapers, news stations and law enforcement websites.  It also must be set up by command law enforcement officers and not officers in the field. When deciding who to stop, a neutral mathematical formula must be used. In other words, the officers can stop every vehicle, or every second, fourth or tenth vehicle. If officers stopped a car for reasons not connected to random assignment, then legal protocol may have been violated. Also, the law demands that the checkpoints be clearly visible to approaching drivers with warning signs, good lighting and clearly identifiable official vehicles.

Also by law, sobriety checkpoint police may detain drivers for a short time, only long enough for the officer to question the driver briefly and to look for signs of clear intoxication.

“If the driver does not show symptoms of intoxication, the driver should be permitted to leave. If an officer halts someone for too long with no clear reason, this may be a violation of the checkpoint rules,” explained Mr. Knox

Drivers who choose to avoid a roadblock cannot be stopped for doing nothing more than attempting to avoid the DUI checkpoint. Only if probable cause exists can a driver be pulled over.  Valid reasons include vehicle code violation or display of obvious signs of intoxication.

An experienced California DUI defense lawyer can determine whether a roadside DUI checkpoint stop was lawfully conducted and ensure the best possible outcome of a DUI case.  Contact the San Bernardino, California drunk driving defense law firm of Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP at 909-453-4059.

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