The United States Supreme Court has upheld the use of sobriety checkpoints, stressing the states’ strong interest in eradicating the serious problem of drunken driving, the slight intrusion on motorists subject to a brief stop at a highway checkpoint, and the fact that it is for politically accountable officials to decide which reasonable law enforcement techniques should be used and that checkpoints are a reasonable technique. Michigan Dep’t of State Police v Sitz (1990) 496 US 444, 450–453, 110 S Ct 2481, 110 L Ed 2d 412. The California Supreme Court has held that sobriety checkpoints are lawful under the state and federal constitutions if they are conducted within certain limitations. Ingersoll v Palmer (1987) 43 C3d 1321, 1329, 1338, 1341, 241 CR 42. The Court set forth the following guidelines for evaluating the intrusiveness of a sobriety checkpoint stop (43 C3d at 1341–1346):
• Decisions to establish checkpoints and regarding site selection and procedures should be made by supervisors, not officers in the field. • Decisions about which motorists to stop should be made by applying a neutral formula, and should not be at the officer’s discretion.
• Primary consideration must be given to the safety of motorists and officers.
• The checkpoint must be at the most effective location to achieve the governmental interest, that is, on roads with high rates of alcohol-related accidents or arrests.
• Officials must exercise good judgment as to the time and duration of the checkpoints, considering effectiveness and safety.
• The checkpoint must appear to be duly authorized, with high visibility, warning signs, police vehicles, and uniformed officers.
• The length of time each motorist is detained must be minimal. If the motorist does not display signs of impairment, he or she must be permitted to drive on without further delay. If the officer observes signs of intoxication, the motorist may be directed to a separate area for field sobriety tests, at which point further investigation must be based on probable cause.
Ingersoll also required that there be advance publicity of the checkpoint says one Criminal Lawyer in Torrance, but the Court subsequently repudiated this requirement, finding that it placed too onerous a burden on police in the field. People v Banks (1993) 6 C4th 926, 931, 934 n3, 25 CR2d 524 (affirming Ingersoll’s other guidelines set forth, above). The burden of proving that the Ingersoll requirements have not been met is on the accused drunk driver. See Roelfsema v Department of Motor Vehicles (1995) 41 CA4th 871, 880, 48 CR2d 817. Most Judges hearing these cases put a high burden on the defendant to establish a violation.
Though the laws involving checkpoints are in a constant state of flux, many certain guidelines remain unchanged. Most recently, according to one local DUI Lawyer in Torrance , the United States Supreme Court, in City of Indianapolis v Edmond (2000) 531 US 32, 121 S Ct 447, 148 L Ed 2d 333, held that vehicle checkpoints for the purpose of interdicting unlawful drugs violated the Fourth Amendment, because the primary purpose of the checkpoints was indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control. The Court noted that it has upheld brief, suspicionless seizures at a sobriety checkpoint aimed at removing drunk drivers from the road (see Sitz, above), and in other limited instances, but that it has never approved a checkpoint program whose primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing. The fact that it may have a secondary purpose of keeping impaired motorists off the road does not make such a checkpoint constitutional. This holding does not alter the constitutional status of the checkpoints approved in Sitz