Sobriety Checkpoints in California
Law enforcement agencies in the state of California like to utilize sobriety checkpoints as a method to discourage driving under the influence (DUI) and to discourage the commission of offenses related to DUI. According to the California Vehicle Code, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08 percent. In other words, if you are stopped by law enforcement officers and your BAC is 0.08 percent or higher or if you're BAC is less than 0.08 percent, but the investigating officer feels your ability to drive is impaired, you will be arrested on DUI charges.
What is Fresno's Sobriety Checkpoint Policy?
Typically, a sobriety checkpoint will be established on a public road or highway to allow law enforcement officers to systematically check drivers for evidence of driving while intoxicated. The checkpoints are normally set up on weekends and holidays during the late night or early morning hours. Often times, these Fresno checkpoints will also correspond with public events that may serve alcoholic beverages leaving some participants attending the event impaired.
Fresno & Field Sobriety Tests
If impairment is suspected, law enforcement officers will use breathalyzer devices in order to quickly test the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of a driver. Besides a breath test, the law enforcement officer will likely conduct field sobriety tests (FSTs)designed to determine the possible level of intoxication of a driver. These FSTs typically include:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN);
- One-leg stand; and
- Walk and turn.
These FSTs are meant to observe the driver's memory, balance, coordination, and dexterity. These factors have all been shown to be influenced by the consumption of alcoholic beverages and will provide law enforcement officers with the evidence required to make an arrest of an individual for DUI in Fresno.
Notifying the Public Before Starting a Sobriety Checkpoint in California
Typically, public notices are required in order to alert residents of the city of Fresno regarding an upcoming sobriety checkpoint. States, like California, have maintained that sobriety checkpoints are designed to discourage persons from drinking and driving rather than as a method to “catch drunk drivers” or entrap them in some way.
Besides identifying intoxicated drivers, sobriety checkpoints have led to an increase in the apprehension of other types of offenders in Fresno, including: driving without a license, traffic violations and other criminal charges.
In conjunction with notifying the public, the state of California has additional guidelines related to conducting sobriety checkpoints. Once a location is approved by supervising officers, there must be a formula instituted as to which vehicles will be stopped at the checkpoint. Officers in the state of California are not allowed to stop random vehicles for arbitrary reasons or preconceived notions.
Public Safety & Fresno DUI Checkpoints
It is required that these checkpoints be performed in locations that will ensure the safety of the public. This includes proper warning signs, flashing lights, as well as clearly visible law enforcement vehicles and officers.
When conducting a breath or field sobriety test on a Fresno driver, a law enforcement officer should only detain that individual as long as may be needed to establish whether or not the driver shows signs of intoxication. If the driver shows no sign of impairment, they should be released and allowed to resume their journey.
A decision by the Supreme Court of California held that a driver who attempts to avoid the sobriety checkpoint may not be stopped solely based upon that attempt. That driver may only be stopped if a traffic violation is commited.
Should You Contact a DUI Defense Attorney?
If you have been charged with DUI in Fresno and were subjected to a sobriety checkpoint, you may think your case is a lost cause. However, a competent and experienced DUI attorney can create a strong defense for you based around the specific facts of your individual case. If you are facing charges related to a first offense DUI, do not think that your only choice is to plead guilty. Take a moment to contact Terry A. Wapner and schedule a consultation in order to discuss the facts of your case and be advised of your options.