Typically, a police officer must have "reasonable suspicion" of a violation of law in order to make a traffic stop. However, this is not true of sobriety checkpoints.
In Ingersoll v. Palmer, 43 Cal.3d 1321 (1987), the California Supreme Court determined that the standard for DUI checkpoints is not the same as other stops because the purpose of DUI checkpoints is to "promote public safety by deterring intoxicated persons from driving." By contrast, the Court held that the purpose of other stops is to "discover evidence of a crime or to make arrests of drunk drivers." Therefore, under Ingersoll, the police departments are not required to have "reasonable suspicion" to stop drivers at checkpoints.
Although the Ingersoll decision abandoned the "reasonable suspicion" standard, the Court established eight factors that balance the rights of individuals and public safety. If a police department does not follow the Ingersoll protocol, the stop at the checkpoint is not lawful and any subsequent arrest may not be admissible in court.
The Ingersoll factors include:
1. Decisions about the location and plans of the checkpoint are made by a supervisory officer;
2. The police department utilizes a neutral plan to determine which cars to stop;
3. The location is reasonable, with proper warning signals and lighting to maintain safety;
4. The time and duration of the checkpoint are reasonable;
5. The checkpoint is highly visible;
6. The length of the stops are minimal for non-intoxicated drivers;
7. The checkpoint is publicized in advance.
Thus, although Ingersoll may have allowed sobriety checkpoints, it placed limitations on police departments' execution of the checkpoints. In order to determine whether an arrest is admissible, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
If you have been charged with DUI as a result of a checkpoint in San Diego, California, it is important that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact my office at (619) 274-8036 to schedule a consultation.