January 3, 2020 By Matthew Wallin

Why We Publicize DUI Checkpoints

We get a lot of feedback on our social media postings for announcing the locations of DUI checkpoints in Southern California. Among the most common questions we receive: “Why do you publicly announce these locations? Aren’t law firms like yours helping people get away with driving under the influence by issuing these advanced warnings about checkpoints?”

The answer is simple: We do it because the police do it, and the courts have

ruled that people have a right to know when and where police might set up a sobriety checkpoint to stop drivers without any suspicion or warrant.

Police Agencies Must Publicly Announce Checkpoint Locations

Both the California[1] and United States Supreme Courts[2] have ruled that police checkpoints are constitutional, but only if the checkpoint meets certain conditions. If the checkpoint does not meet these requirements, it potentially violates the Fourth Amendment rights of the persons who pass through the checkpoint, and any arrest that results from it could be ruled invalid by a court.

One of the most important conditions is that the public must be made aware in advance that a checkpoint will be set up at a specific location and time. While a failure to announce the location and time of a checkpoint by itself is not enough for the checkpoint to be unconstitutional[3], it can be one of the factors that a court will use to hold that the checkpoint was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, causing any evidence obtained at the checkpoint to be ruled inadmissible at trial.

Knowing they could lose convictions if they fail to follow the rules, law enforcement agencies in California will generally announce when and where they intend to set up a checkpoint. Usually, these announcements can be found on local websites, social media, and on local news broadcasts.

The Effect of Public Announcement

So, do the public announcements just cause drunk drivers to plan their route home around the checkpoint? The evidence actually suggests that is not occurring, but instead, the announcement acts as a deterrent. If people know there is a checkpoint nearby, there is a tendency for drivers to think twice about risking a DUI arrest when there is an increased police presence in the surrounding area. Many people will instead opt for having a designated driver or to call for a ride home in a taxi or with a ride sharing company like Uber or Lyft.

Our experience in criminal defense also tells us this: some people are arrested at checkpoints who did not commit any crime at all. Whether it is a mistake made by law enforcement, or the product of a police officer abusing his or her power, innocent people are arrested every day. By spreading the word about checkpoint locations, we can reduce the frequency with which people interact with police. This also will cut down the number of innocent people who are inadvertently caught up in the criminal justice system.

We understand people question our motives. Wallin & Klarich is a criminal defense firm, and we earn our living by fighting for the rights of people throughout Southern California who are accused of crimes of all kinds, including driving under the influence. In that sense, our decision to publicize the already public announcements by law enforcement agencies of locations where people might be arrested is not in our own interest. Fewer criminal charges results in fewer people needing our services as DUI attorneys. However, we also believe that providing the public with this information benefits the communities in which we live and work, and helps keep all of us safer on the road.

Another reason we believe that is in the best interest of the community to post “checkpoint” information is so law abiding citizens who are not intoxicated are not having their otherwise pleasant evening ruined by waiting in a checkpoint for sometimes an hour or more. Most people work hard every day and when they are coming home from work they are tired and hungry. Others have worked hard all week and are on their way to dinner to meet friends or to take in a movie. Why should law abiding citizens have their evenings inconvenienced like this. Posting the checkpoints in advance allows law abiding citizens with the information so they can plan their evenings in a manner to avoid getting caught in a “checkpoint”.

Contact the DUI Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Right Away

If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, you have no time to waste in hiring an experienced defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 35 years of experience in successfully defending against criminal charges that started at a DUI checkpoint. We know how to raise challenges to the officer’s conduct during your arrest, and we have decades of experience in challenging weak evidence leading to unlawful arrests. Let us help you, too. Contact us today for a free, no obligation phone consultation.

With offices in Los Angeles, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney near you, no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.

[1] Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321

[2] Michigan Dept. of State Police et al. v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990)

[3] People v. Banks (1993) 6 Cal.4th 926, 934

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