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Understanding Your Rights at a California DUI Checkpoint

California DUI Checkpoint

If you are driving at night and notice you are heading straight toward a California DUI checkpoint, you are probably feeling a little nervous and uneasy. These checkpoints can be stressful even for those who have not had a drop of alcohol, but the situation gets much more complicated if you have consumed one or two drinks. While having a few drinks does not mean you are too impaired to operate a vehicle safely, that fact does not protect you from arrest. The No. 1 way to get out of this situation without unneeded legal trouble is to know and enforce your constitutional rights.

What Will Happen When You’re Stopped At A California DUI Checkpoint

When the police stop you at a California DUI checkpoint, they will ask where you are going and if you had any drinks. At this point, your most vital right is your right to remain silent and not to answer any questions the police can use against you. The second you admit to having even one drink, your chance of going to jail goes up a lot. Be polite and tell the officers that you don’t answer questions without a lawyer present during the investigation. They won’t be happy with this decision, but you must remain firm in your stance. 

Field Sobriety Tests At California DUI Checkpoints

The police at a California DUI checkpoint can ask you to perform a field sobriety test, but they won’t tell you that you have the right to decline. During such tests, an officer will ask you to complete a set of tasks that would be challenging in the middle of the day in a controlled environment. If you agree to the officer’s request, you will complete the test at night with distractions all around you, and you won’t be on an even surface. In the best possible case, you can complete the test without flaw, but the officer can still use his discretion to place you under arrest. You never have to perform a field sobriety test and should always refuse to do so. 

Breath Tests At California DUI Checkpoints

Most people think all drivers must submit to a breath test when the police ask them to do so, but that is not the full truth. Implied consent laws are the source of the confusion and one of the main reasons people don’t enforce their rights at a California DUI checkpoint. The law only requires you to submit to the test when you are under arrest for suspicion of driving while under the influence. You can politely decline the test if you are not yet under arrest. Roadside breath tests are not as accurate as the police would like you to believe, and they could display a higher blood alcohol concentration than you have. If you have had even a small amount of alcohol on the night you reach the checkpoint, refuse the breath test if you are not under arrest. 

While DUI checkpoints are stressful and confusing for a lot of people, knowing your rights is the best way to keep yourself safe. Answering questions is always a bad idea no matter how innocent they seem. Exercise your right to remain silent and refuse to take field sobriety tests if you wish to minimize your odds of ending up behind bars. If you have had a few drinks but are not under arrest, tell the officer you won’t consent to a breath test. These tips can’t offer any guarantees on the outcome of your police encounter, but they give you the best possible shot at staying out of harm’s way.