DUI Checkpoints in Orange County
Local law enforcement agencies are authorized by the state legislature to conduct DUI checkpoints when and where they see fit. Officers are not required to pull over every car that passes by, however they are able to examine each vehicle and run documents. This is not always practical as it can cause significant traffic. These checkpoints also require significant manpower to process the vehicles and drivers who are passing through.
The purpose of these traffic checkpoints is to ensure motorists are protected from the dangers of drinking and driving. But it's still important to know how to protect your rights at a checkpoint if you were to be stopped and questioned.
If you are approaching a DUI checkpoint, it is highly recommended you do not make any illegal turns or erratic movements to try and evade it. This will draw tremendous attention to you and likely result in you being pulled over. Safety is paramount at these stops. If you put officers in harms way, they could potentially use deadly force against you. Law enforcement stages officers at various places around and before the checkpoint to catch people who try to avoid going through them. Besides the citation for making an illegal turn, there is a high probability you will be asked to take a breathalyzer or perform a FST.
Although a checkpoint is an effective way to remove drunk drivers from the road, it is important to remember that they do not necessarily lead to arrests. Their primary purpose is to deter drunk drivers, and publicizing their presence discourages some drivers from driving drunk. All DUI checkpoints must be announced ahead of their implementation. For example, see the attached announcement by OCSD from August 2021.
Although law enforcement makes official announcements through their respective media channels, there are other resources that you can check to see if there will be a sobriety checkpoint in an area near you:
DUI Block on Twitter
DUI checkpoints are not designed to harass sober drivers. Instead, they are designed to prevent crashes by detecting impaired drivers who may be a hazard to public safety. Sometimes a stop can take as long as a red light and should not last more than a few minutes. A police officer is only allowed to conduct sobriety tests if they have reasonable suspicion. If they do not have reasonable suspicion, then they cannot ask you to take sobriety tests or arrest you.
If you are stopped over at a DUI checkpoint, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. First, be polite. You can refuse to answer questions about the origin of your trip (where you just came from) and your destination. The officer may waive you through without saying anything, or they could ask you to provide a valid driver's license. This step alone can catch unlicensed driver's or driver's with suspended licenses. Unlicensed motorists will likely have their vehicle impounded, in addition to inviting further scrutiny about their otherwise lawful activities. Vehicles with expired registration or tags will also be cited.
Officers are also allowed to take a look at your vehicle at the checkpoint. They will check for vehicle damage, operation of headlights, brake lights, tail lights, windshield cracks, rearview mirrors, or any other defects that violate the law. Any of these vehicle issues could be used as probable cause to open an investigation into your activities that night.