On December 18, 1985 (and still in force today!) there was a decision made for the case of Ingersoll v. Palmer, which set the standards for DUI checkpoints used today. Back in the 1980s when checkpoints were becoming a new thing, people wondered if checkpoints went against their search and seizure rights. The California Supreme Court ruled that checkpoints were okay if they met certain standards. Ingersoll was filed three days after California’s first DUI checkpoint, showing the backlash that came from them.

Taxpayers in California believed that roadblocks to stop DUI defendants were unconstitutional; however, the California Attorney General at the time said that roadblocks could be used if they were set up to ‘minimize the intrusion on motorists.’ Before these rules, police officers could only pull people over when there was probable cause. Now today, there are 8 rules that apply to the Ingersoll decision that make these checkpoints legal.

The 8 Standards 

Avoiding Arbitrary Locations: Motorists should always be stopped on a neutral and impartial basis. This means if the checkpoint is in an arbitrary or capricious location, it is not permitted. This is most likely to avoid accusations of racial profiling.

Avoiding Abuse in Driver Selection: Officers must abide by strict procedures and select drivers randomly. Sometimes, the pattern will be as simple as every third driver to avoid abuse.

Maintenance of Safety Conditions: Bright lights and signage is necessary to alert drivers.

Reasonable Location: The location should be based on relevant factors of the area, such as incidences where DUIs occur most often. 

Time and Duration: Timing should be set to optimize the checkpoint in the most effective way.

Signage and Avoidance: Lights that signify the emergence of the checkpoint should be visible to give notification to drivers. As long as a driver does not act illegally to avoid the checkpoint, they are permitted to avoid it.

Length and Nature: The stop should be as short as possible so that it does not infringe on a person’s rights. If there is no alcohol in sight or the person is not visibly intoxicated, they should be let go. 

Advance Publicity: The checkpoint should be advertised in advance to make the public aware, such as in a newspaper.

DUI checkpoints are only legal if they follow these standards today. If you believe you were pulled over at an unfair checkpoint and believe it went against these standards, you may have a case. Call us today for more.