What Actually Is A Legal DUI Checkpoint In California?
DUI or drunk-driving checkpoints are funded by state and federal governments and are meant to stop drivers in order to ensure that they are not driving while impaired. A legal DUI checkpoint must comply with a number of different requirements, one of which is to provide proper notice. However, notices do not have to be broadcasted on main channels or posted on signs; instead, most notices are done in such a small and secretive way that 99 percent of the population is entirely unaware of when and where there will be one. In order for a checkpoint to be legal in the Bay Area and other counties in California, motorists must be notified in a way that allows them to avoid the checkpoint. In other words, there must be a route before the checkpoint that allows motorists to avoid the checkpoint altogether. This requirement is something that can be litigated.
The Ingersoll case is a prior DUI checkpoint case which addresses the requirements for checkpoints and the modifications to news agencies in properly notifying people of upcoming checkpoints. Additional requirements are referred to as Ingersoll factors, which include a systematic process whereby officials stop every car, every other car, or every third or fourth car. Depending on the volume of traffic through a particular checkpoint, officers will adjust the number of cars they stop. Officers are instructed to chart which system they are using and whether or not they change the frequency with which they stop motorists. This is required in order to prevent stops based on profiling, which could occur if officers were allowed to pick and choose which vehicles they stop. However, some officers will do this anyway and will often get away with it, particularly if a stop based on profiling is not challenged by a lawyer who can prove that a systematic process was not being used.
Another requirement is for checkpoints to be set up by someone who has a certain level of authority, and for there to be a written procedure pertaining to the creation of a checkpoint. In addition, checkpoints should be set up in areas where there have been historical problems with DUI accidents or arrests. There are many factors that must be considered when setting up a checkpoint in California. Some judges feel stronger about enforcing legal or non-compliant actions on the part of the government. If a suppression motion is successfully brought by a defendant or driver who has been arrested for a DUI at a checkpoint, then their case will be dismissed.
Not many people end up getting arrested at DUI checkpoints because they are not very effective; it is more effective for officers to patrol freeways on which people tend to speed, or roads that have many curves and cause people to have issues controlling their vehicles or staying in their lanes. For example, there are many places in Marin County where it is easy for officers to make stops, such as after the Golden Gate Bridge where there is a steep and curvy road. Having more patrol officers in this area would be a more effective use of resources than assigning 25 or 30 officers to a particular checkpoint where they might make one or two arrests after stopping thousands of sober drivers. Part of the reason checkpoints exist is because governments and organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving fund them.
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