Police agencies throughout southern California are planning to deploy teams of officers to various locations throughout the region to deter and detect individuals suspected of driving under the influence. The checkpoints will be active every night through Memorial Day weekend, 2013, throughout the city of Los Angeles, throughout cities in Orange County, and at locations that include Ventura and the Inland Empire.

A Friendly Reminder

Agencies conducting these DUI checkpoints are reminding drivers this holiday weekend that individuals charged with driving under the influence in California face the risk of serious jail time, fines, the loss of driving privileges, increased insurance premiums and other negative consequences. While these agencies remembered to remind drivers of the consequences that they face if found guilty of DUI charges, they failed to remind drivers of their rights through the DUI checkpoint process.

Generally Constitutional

DUI checkpoints have already been ruled legal and constitutional in California, but that does not mean that police are given carte blanche to treat suspects of DUI any way they want. Even those suspected of driving under the influence are granted certain rights which they can exercise without fear of penalty.

One such right is the right to remain silent, that is to say nothing at all, to an officer manning a DUI checkpoint. So long as the driver of the vehicle identifies him or herself, answering questions like “Where are you coming from?” and “Have you been drinking?” are entirely optional and nobody is ever required to answer such questions.

The other right is the right to refuse tests that supposedly test for sobriety when those tests are given by the side of the road. As one might imagine, the side of the road is the last place on earth that anyone should be forced to take any kind of test, particularly one that can lead to the loss of freedom and restriction of movement.

The only kind of test required by California law which, if refused, can lead to further charges and the immediate loss of driving privileges, is a chemical test. A chemical test uses scientific procedures to determine an accurate measurement of the amount of drugs or alcohol in a person’s system.

Unfortunately, there is no way to administer an accurate chemical test at a DUI checkpoint, so refusal of preliminary sobriety tests in the field will almost always result in a detention until a chemical test can be provided. Suspects and subjects of DUI checkpoints should remember, however, that a detention for further investigation is not an arrest, it is simply a time when a matter is investigated to determine whether or not a full arrest would be appropriate.

If an arrest is deemed to be appropriate, every test which a person submits to will become a matter of evidence for the court to consider. If they refuse field sobriety tests, then the suspect gives the state one less piece of evidence that it can use against the suspect. After all, it is the duty of the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it is never the duty of the suspect to prove innocence.

Since there are few instances where refusal to submit to a chemical test would be beneficial, if they are presented with the option of a chemical test, DUI suspects are generally encouraged to select a test of their blood, so that, at least, the suspect’s own attorney can have the sample independently tested.