What should you do if you are stopped one of the CA DUI checkpoints?
Understand that the cops are not just looking for people who’ve been drinking they are also looking for people who don’t have a valid license and those who are or could be under the influence of drugs. LA area cops are equipped with mouth swabs to detect the presence of marijuana.
First, all DUI checkpoints have to have a release valve for those people who do not want to be inconvenienced by the wait at the checkpoint. If you notice a traffic slow down or stoppage and it is not usual for the time and area, there is probably a DUI checkpoint up ahead. Start looking for ways to legally avoid the checkpoint. The checkpoints are usually placed where there are minimal avenues for escape. It is important to avoid the checkpoint legally, because if the cops observe you breaking the law to avoid the checkpoint they will stop you for the violation and begin a DUI investigation. The cops ARE looking for people who avoid the checkpoints, be sure of that.
Second, if you haven’t been drinking and don’t feel like making a point about your vanishing constitutional rights and the increase of the domestic police state, you probably want to cooperate. Cop: “Have you been drinking?” You: “No.” Cop: “Have a nice night.”
If you have a smart phone you should turn on the video/audio feature of the phone and place it somewhere where the dialogue between you and the cop can be heard. Better if there’s someone with you and they can surreptitiously film the encounter.
Have your license, registration and insurance documents in your hand when you get to the front of the line. The time to start looking for your documents is not when the cop’s flashlight is shining in your car. He will describe that you fumbled for your license, that’s not good. While you’re waiting in line may also be the time for gum and Visine if you have it.
If you have been drinking, you should give the cops as little evidence to convict you of DUI as possible. That’s what they’re there to do — gather evidence to be used against you. Remember, in a checkpoint situation the cops have not observed ANY bad driving giving rise to a lawful traffic stop. Don’t answer their questions (“Officer, am I free to go?” “No?” “Then, officer, I would rather not answer your questions.”). As in all situations where someone is going to report what you said, once you start talking to them, they are free to lie about what you said, but if you don’t talk to them at all then its much more difficult for them to lie.
Don’t partake in their field sobriety games (“Officer, I choose not to perform these field sobriety exercises, thank you very much.”). Don’t take the preliminary alcohol screening test (“Officer, I am free to refuse to take this test without consequence, correct?” “I choose not to take this test.”).
It is important to distinguish between the preliminary alcohol screening test and the test administered post arrest. Inquire whether you are under arrest. If no, don’t take the test. If under arrest you have to take the test or risk losing your license for one year. At this point, you have provided them with one semi-objective piece of evidence that you were under the influence at the time of driving. That’s the best case scenario for any DUI arrest.
If you have any questions about checkpoints, please call me at (213) 479-5322.