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California’s Sobriety Checkpoint/Roadblock Criteria (Part I)

checkpoint sign.jpgSobriety checkpoints or roadblocks were found to not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz (1990).

The California Supreme Court set forth criteria for checkpoints to ensure they are in compliance with the Federal and California’s State Constitution in Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987). However, the court did not require all the factors be present for the checkpoint to be deemed constitutional.

The California Court decided driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoints should function as a deterrence and not solely to increase the number of DUI arrests. In this opinion, the Court explained the ambiguous guidelines law enforcement must use to minimalize the intrusiveness of the stop.

1. Decisionmaking at the supervisory level. The decision to conduct the DUI checkpoint, the location of the site, and the operation procedures are to be established by supervisory law enforcement not field officers.

2. Limits on discretion of field officers. There must be a neutral formula to determine which cars are to be stopped. This is not to be left in the discretion of the field officers.

3. Maintenance of safety conditions. This is done by employing proper lighting, signs and signals, and having clearly identifiable official vehicles and personnel.

4. Reasonable location. The location should be determined by policy-making officials not field officers. The site should be one that has a high rate of alcohol related accidents and arrests. Safety should also be considered when choosing the location.

The last four criteria will be discussed in another future posting, “California’s Sobriety Checkpoint/Roadblock Criteria (Part II).”


If you were charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in San Diego County after going through a DUI checkpoint, call The Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman for help. We are an exclusively DUI defense firm. We evaluate the particular facts of each case, raising any viable defenses, including issues with DUI stops at a checkpoint. The result of winning such motions can include reduced charges or even a dismissal of your case! We offer free, confidential consultations so you can learn about your rights and your legal options at no charge. Call us today at 619-260-1122 or use the “Contact Us” form on this page.