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CHP announces upcoming DUI/Driver's License checkpoint in Bakersfield

What are the legal nuts and bolts of DUI checkpoints in California? What duties does law enforcement have? What are your rights as a driver?
Posted: 4:50 PM, May 24, 2023
Updated: 2023-05-25 13:17:24-04
Drunk Driving DUI (FILE)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The California Highway Patrol has announced that they will be conducting a DUI/Driver's License Checkpoint in an unincorporated area of Bakersfield from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fri, May 26.

Several decades of research by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration have provided clear and convincing evidence that everything about conducting DUI checkpoints reduces and deters impaired driving, including making a public announcement beforehand.

However, some people may want to know more about their rights and law enforcement's duties when it comes to DUI checkpoints.

According to Koenig Law Office in Bakersfield, California Motor Vehicle Code permits the state's law enforcement agencies to operate DUI checkpoints on public roads. The law lets police stop and detain drivers for a short period of time and ask them to perform field sobriety tests, which drivers at checkpoints have the right to refuse, without probable cause.

Law enforcement agencies have a number of rules they must abide by during the operation of a DUI checkpoint, including having a commanding officer oversee the operation, making sure the checkpoint is clearly visible and signed so drivers know exactly what's going on, and creating a neutral system for stopping drivers, such as taking every third car that passes, instead of making judgments based on any characteristics of the cars or drivers.

Drivers also have certain rights when it pertains to DUI checkpoints in California, including the right to simply turn around as soon as they start seeing the signs that a checkpoint is ahead. In California, so long as no traffic laws are broken, drivers are free to avoid a checkpoint if they see one coming up.

You are under no legal obligation to participate in a sobriety checkpoint, and the police are not allowed to stop you from turning away and finding another route to avoid one, so long as you don't break any traffic laws while you do that.

By participating in a DUI checkpoint, you are consenting to give the officer your driver's license and car registration, as well as engage in a short conversation with the officer, and complete field sobriety tests if you are asked. It is not consent to a search of either your car or your person, and the officer should not search you or your car unless you give them probable cause to do so.

Probable cause with regards to a DUI checkpoint stop includes your breath smelling like alcohol, unsteady performance on field sobriety tests, and the officer seeing an open alcohol container or other intoxicants in your car in plain sight. If the officer sees these things, you will be arrested for driving under the influence. Once you're under arrest, officers are allowed to conduct a search without your consent.

Dealing with police can be very stressful, but try to remain calm and professional. Understanding and maintaining your rights at DUI checkpoints helps you and your local law enforcement agencies keep the roads safer for everyone.