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Navigating DUI Sobriety Checkpoints: What You Need to Know



Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal?

Sobriety checkpoints, akin to border checkpoints, have been deemed legal under specific circumstances by the Supreme Court[i]. However, these DUI checkpoints are considered seizures and must align with Fourth Amendment requirements. Unlike illegal dragnets, sobriety checkpoints are established explicitly to deter impaired driving. The California Supreme Court has outlined an 8-factor test to determine the legality of a sobriety checkpoint[ii]:

– Did police personnel decide the location and procedures for the DUI checkpoint?

– Was there a neutral formula for determining which cars were stopped? (e.g., every 4th car)

– Was the DUI checkpoint maintained safely, with proper signs, signals, and lighting?

– Was the checkpoint located on roads with a high incidence of alcohol-related incidents?

– Was the time and duration of the DUI checkpoint reasonable?

– Was it apparent to drivers that the checkpoint was official, with the option to turn off?

– Did the checkpoint minimize the average time each motorist was detained?

– Was there advance notice to the public about the checkpoint’s time and location?

In misdemeanor or felony DUI cases involving a sobriety checkpoint, prosecutors must present evidence supporting each of these eight factors. Despite their purpose, sobriety checkpoints have been criticized for financial gain and racial profiling[iii][iv]. Government funding supports many Los Angeles DUI checkpoints, mandated by traffic safety grants[v]. These grants require police agencies to conduct “high-visibility enforcement efforts,” encompassing sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols[vi].

Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint

Most Los Angeles DUI checkpoints are visible, allowing drivers to choose alternate routes. If you enter, you must stop and submit to inspection[vii]. Your rights during a sobriety checkpoint mirror those during any traffic stop. While you must provide your license or registration upon request, you can refuse to answer police questions unrelated to the checkpoint’s purpose. It is illegal for officers to interrogate you about non-relevant matters[viii]. You have the right to decline field sobriety tests and refuse a search at a DUI checkpoint. While you can refuse the handheld PAS (Preliminary Alcohol Screening) device, California’s implied consent law mandates blood-alcohol testing upon DUI arrest[ix]. You also have the right to request a chemical test of your blood or breath[x].

Finding Police Checkpoints Tonight

Most California police departments announce DUI checkpoint locations in advance through press releases, local newspapers, neighborhood websites, and services like Nixle. Police department websites under “news” or “press releases” also provide information. For instance, the LAPD publicizes Los Angeles sobriety checkpoints at

If you’ve been arrested at a DUI checkpoint or face charges from police conduct near one, contact THE LEVENTHAL FIRM. Our skilled criminal defense lawyers challenge the prosecution to prove the checkpoint’s legality, advocating for the dismissal of your misdemeanor or felony DUI.

Reference List:

[i] Michigan State Police Dept. v. Sitz (1990) 496 U.S. 444

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


[iv] California Government Code 12525.5 requires police to report data on all traffic stops, beginning April 1, 2019, for large police agencies, to prevent racial profiling.

[v] [For a list of grant recipients, amounts, and conditions of the grant, see the OTS annual Highway Safety Plan publication. 2016 HSP can be found here.

[vi] CFR 1300.23

[vii] VC 2814.2(a)

[viii] People v Valenzuela (1994) 28 CA4th 817, 826

[ix] VC 23612

[x] VC 23612(d)(1)