Drunk driving checkpoints are legal in California because they are considered to be administrative inspections like baggage searches at airports. According to law enforcement, placing sobriety checkpoints at busy intersections and in areas with numerous bars and restaurants acts a deterrent by reminding drivers of the consequences of getting behind the wheel after drinking. In addition to looking for signs of intoxication, police at sobriety checkpoints verify that driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations are current and run records checks for outstanding warrants.
One such checkpoint was conducted between 7:00 p.m. on April 13 to 1:00 a.m. on April 14 at one of the busiest intersections in Chula Vista. Police say that 751 vehicles were stopped at Palomar Street and Broadway during the six-hour operation and three motorists were taken into custody on drunk driving charges. Reports indicate that police also impounded nine vehicles and issued citations to 21 motorists for not having a driver’s license or driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license.
The Chula Vista Police Department uses funds from the California Office of Traffic Safety to pay for sobriety and driver’s license checkpoints in the city, which a department representative said would become a more common sight in the months ahead. The money is allocated in the form of a grant administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
While lawmakers in California may have determined that sobriety checkpoints do not violate constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure, experienced criminal defense attorneys could still challenge DUI arrests made at such checkpoints in certain circumstances. Attorneys may argue that drunk driving charges should be dismissed or reduced when police officers at sobriety checkpoints acted unreasonably or demonstrated bias, and checkpoints may be ruled invalid if police used unmarked vehicles to block intersections or no senior officers were present.
Source: ABC 10 News San Diego, “3 arrested, 9 cars impounded in Chula Vista DUI/License checkpoint”, Mario Sevilla, April 14, 2018