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How Do DUI Checkpoints In Los Angeles County Work?

  • By: Ron Hedding
  • Published: March 24, 2020

At a check point, the police map out an area where they think a lot of DUI drivers will be driving through. They set up their machines to test drivers’ breath and assign people to take blood because drivers have a choice of breath or blood testing.

They set up a perimeter and have law enforcement officers hiding. When people come up to the checkpoint and try to get out by making an illegal U-turn, the police are waiting to pull them over.

Just because you drive into a checkpoint and you’ve had some alcohol does not mean that you are guilty of DUI. The police must identify that you’re actually under the influence of alcohol.

If they pulled every single person out of their vehicle, it would block traffic for miles. First, they may ask if you have had anything to drink. If you answer yes, you’re going to be shuttled into an area where they’re going to get you out of the car to conduct a field sobriety test.

If you tell them that you haven’t been drinking, you will probably end up getting through the checkpoint unless there are obvious signs that you have been.

Police are usually going to choose a checkpoint location by population density and by proximity to places where people drink alcohol. A lot of checkpoints are set up at major intersections near restaurants that serve alcohol.

Sometimes, they don’t even have to set up a checkpoint to catch multiple drivers. Someone will get into an accident on the freeway and then a group of other people will end up coming up to the scene dangerously.

Police are definitely strategic about checkpoints and definitely choose intersections where the most flow of traffic will go through. They’ve also got to be cognizant of the fact that people will try to avoid going through the checkpoint.

It will be necessary to set up perimeter officers to capture those people who are trying to turn out of the checkpoint because those are usually people who are driving under the influence. California Vehicle Code 23152 defines the crime of DUI.

Do I Have To Stop At A DUI Checkpoint?

DUI checkpoints are legal and you have to be cooperative as you go through them. You don’t have to answer the police officer’s questions in the way that they want them answered. I would never recommend that you admit to drinking and driving.How Do DUI Checkpoints In Los Angeles County Work?

Then, you’re sure to be ordered out of the car and tested. If you refuse to answer questions at all, you also have a high probability of being tested.

My suggestion is that you cooperate with the police without incriminating yourself. You don’t have to tell them you’ve been drinking and driving but you do have to go through the line and cooperate.

When it comes to DUI checkpoints in Los Angeles County, the police are allowed to come up to your vehicle to ask you if you’ve been drinking and driving and other basic investigative questions. However, they cannot start ordering every single person out of their car.

They’re going to need probable cause to believe that the person was drinking and driving. If they ask you if you’ve had any alcohol that night and you say yes, you’ve given them probable cause.

If you tell them you haven’t had anything to drink and you don’t smell like alcohol, they’re going to have to develop probable cause some other way. They do need probable cause but DUI checkpoints are permissible and they’re allowed to ask investigative questions or smell the air surrounding someone’s vehicle or breath.

A DUI checkpoint where every single person is being ordered out of their car would be unreasonable. Anything they gathered from pulling you over and testing you would have to be thrown out because they didn’t properly operate the checkpoint.

How Does The Implied Consent Law Apply To DUI Checkpoints?

The implied consent law says that every single person who signs up for a driver’s license agrees that they will cooperate with the police, if the police are investigating them as a potential DUI driver. You cannot refuse to give your blood or breath without consequences. If you refuse to take the blood or breath test, you’re looking at being arrested on a refusal charge.

When you don’t cooperate with a DUI checkpoint, you’re making it easier for the police and the prosecutors to prove that you were driving under the influence. If you refuse to give your blood or breath, then it will be automatically assumed that you are driving under the influence and you have to be able to rebut that presumption.

If you blow into the machine and you are a 0.08 (CALCRIM 2111), the police will probably let you go in a few hours. If you refuse to blow into the machine and they don’t know what your blood alcohol level is, they’re going to probably keep you for 24 hours to make sure that whatever alcohol or drugs were in your system are gone and you’re safe to drive a vehicle.

Realistically, contacting a DUI attorney from the road is going to be very difficult and is also a red flag to the police that you’re driving under the influence. They’re going to immediately suspect that you’re driving under the influence of alcohol and they’re probably going to order you out of the car.

The attorney is only going to tell you to cooperate with them and not make any statements that acknowledge that you’ve been drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, or using any other kind of drug that could affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Mistakes That Law Enforcement Officers Make At DUI Checkpoints

The biggest mistake officers make at checkpoints is taking every single person out of their vehicle. If that occurs, then they’re going to be facing an illegal DUI checkpoint. It is not reasonable to pull every single person out; they’re going to have to have some facts and details to show that you’re intoxicated.

Another area where police get into trouble is if you’re able to turn out of a DUI checkpoint lawfully, before you enter into it, and drive away. They can’t pull you over for no reason or there would be an argument that it’s an illegal pull over and therefore, you should not be subject to being tested for a DUI.

Usually, law enforcement has set up the checkpoint so that you can’t turn out of it legally. If you do turn out of it, you end up making an illegal move.

As long as you can make a turn that is lawful, you’re able to drive away from the checkpoint. If they pull you over, you would have an argument that it was an illegal pull over and everything that flows from that pull over should not be able to be used against you, including blood or breath tests.

You really have to have an attorney evaluate these issues. Your attorney is going to be looking at all the things that happened leading up to your arrest to make an informed decision about whether or not you actually have a good argument.

Hedding Law Firm is a DUI law firm located in  Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We are also located at 633 West Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90071. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0963.

Ron Hedding

About the Author Named Top Los Angeles DUI Defence Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 DUI Defence attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.