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What to Do at a Sobriety Checkpoint

Posted by Jason Beahm | May 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

What to do at a sobriety checkpoint, checkpoints 101

‘Tis the season for sunshine, socializing, and sobriety checkpoints. During the summer months, the number of DUI arrests increase. It is common practice in the Bay Area for police to set up sobriety checkpoints. Most of these checkpoints are conveniently a couple blocks from a busy pub. Recently a lad was caught up in one of these checkpoints and he taped the entire incident. I think we can all learn from this video what to do at a sobriety checkpoint.

For a sobriety checkpoint, there are specific rules that both the driver and the police both must follow. It's a legal tightrope as there was no crime committed before the interaction. Further, sobriety checkpoint must have an available detour around the checkpoint plus the checkpoint must have been announced in a known media publication in advance.

The driver has a duty to either take the available detour around the checkpoint or to drive into the checkpoint. If you were drinking, do not go through the checkpoint. It is better to make the officer establish probable cause than to open yourself up to police interaction. Sure, there may happen to mysteriously be an officer who follows every car electing for the detour. The use of the detour alone is not enough for the officer to stop you. You must either have a mechanical defect in your vehicle (busted tail light) or commit a traffic offense (speeding) in his presence. If you are able to follow the rules and have a working vehicle, you can avoid the hassle of the checkpoint all together.

If you're going through the checkpoint, you must answer only basic questions such as “how are you?” “What is your name?” “Have you been drinking?” Nothing more than that. It is also wise to be cooperative with the police or the boys in blue tend to escalate things quickly. If you're a jerk, you may wind up with a black eye and the officer will say you head-butted his hand. Once you have answered their questions and they do not have anything against you, you will be free to leave. If you are not free to leave, this means you are being detained. If you are detained, remain silent and request a lawyer as the situation just went from cruising home from a concert to dealing with the police who want nothing more than to pin you with a crime. If they catch enough people, they could get recognized by MADD and this means more funding.

The he police also have rules which require that they must have reasonable suspicion to order you out of the vehicle to investigate any further. If they cannot establish cause, they must let the driver know that they are free to leave. If they detain you, they must establish reasonable cause to believe that you committed a crime. further, they must do this in a reasonable amount of time or this will turn into a prolonged detention. They are not allowed to do a full investigation and cavity search at a sobriety checkpoint without cause. If they get the gloves out, they better be damned sure the gloves are needed. 

And that, my friends, is what to do at a sobriety checkpoint. If you got caught at one of these things, give us a call and we can elaborate on the exact case law pertaining to your particular sobriety checkpoint case facts. I look forward to helping you.

About the Author

Jason Beahm

Founding Attorney Profile Credentials Associations Bio Jason Beahm is the Founder and President of Beahm Law. Voted “Best of SF” four out of the past five years by SF Weekly Magazine, Attorney Beahm practices in the areas of DUI, criminal defense, and personal injury. He is passionate ...


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