Category Archives: Sobriety Checkpoints

A DUI on the Fourth of July

A DUI on the Fourth of July


The first large 4th of July party happened in 1777, exactly one year after American independence. It was a day of spontaneous merriment, with fireworks, bonfires, lit candles in windows and gatherings in the streets of Philadelphia, according to In those days people could celebrate to their heart’s content without the legal repercussions now associated with transportation.

The modern 4th of July holiday is largely the same in spirit, but with family, tradition, and parties now intertwined. It’s a time of celebration and reconnection with family and friends. The Fourth of July is about barbeques, quality time with loved ones, and usually a few drinks. But those alcoholic beverages can sometimes spell big trouble once the celebrations end. And the beautiful and patriotic display of red and blue fireworks can easily transition to the unnerving view of red and blue lights in your rearview mirror.


California law enforcement officers this year had heightened awareness around July 4th, particularly thanks to the planned statewide California Highway Patrol (“CHP”) DUI crackdown across California and the 44 deaths on California highways during the 2022 Fourth of July weekend.

2022 and 2021 saw nearly 1,000 motorists arrested on suspicion of DUI statewide, according to Patch.


California Highway Patrol officers were told to take a “zero-tolerance approach to any roadway actions that put other drivers at risk,” CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee told Patch.


Fourth of July weekend DUI arrests are a concerted effort across California, with sheriff’s departments and municipal police departments in all counties, including Orange County communities like Huntington Beach and Newport Beach and Los Angeles County helping to carry out targeted patrols to find DUI suspects.


4th of July DUI Checkpoints in Orange County, California


There were a total of 19 DUI checkpoints in Orange County for July 4th in communities like Santa Ana, Orange, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Buena Park, Anaheim, and Garden Grove this year. Most began in the early evening and extended until around 2 a.m., attempting to snag drunk driving arrests in Orange County.

It’s important to know that your rights don’t fly out the window when you have to roll it down at a DUI checkpoint and speak with an officer. California officers are trained on the physical signs of driving drunk in Orange County, but they are particularly keen to catch drunk drivers leaving holiday celebrations, and especially at DUI checkpoints.

This can lead to faulty arrests stemming from symptoms from medical conditions being mistaken for intoxication.

For example, the very same symptoms of hypoglycemia can mimic that of drug or alcohol intoxication and lead to you being arrested for drunk driving suspicion in California. Although you may not be driving under the influence, an officer may mistakenly believe you are. These similar symptoms include: confusion, sleepiness, nervousness, slurred speech, and swaying while standing or the inability to maintain balance while walking.

Bacterial or viral infections can also appear to be alcohol or drug intoxication, as can reactions to certain medications, epilepsy, or brain injuries.

Even the stomach acid from gastroesophageal reflux disease and the use of inhaled asthma medications can throw off breathalyzer readings and make someone perfectly innocent appear suspicious to Long Beach police or result in a mistaken DUI arrest in Orange County.


The Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor have incredibly experienced Orange County and Los Angeles County DUI defense attorneys ready to strategize your case and come to your defense when you’ve been wrongly charged with a DUI in either county.


You Deserve Quality Defense of Your California DUI or California Drug DUI Charges

Whether you were pulled over for a DUI in Orange, LA, Riverside, or San Diego County, the consequences of a California DUI conviction are costly to your financial and psychological health. If convicted, these penalties can be both short and long term, including an increase in car insurance rates, revocation or suspension of your driver’s license, the costly installation of an ignition interlock device, professional license suspension or revocation like a CDL license in California or a pilot’s license, and even your captain’s license (although not automatic after the first offense).

 If you ever have any interest in visiting Canada, our northern neighbors don’t take kindly to DUI convictions and can block you from entry. A California DUI conviction without proper legal representation can even end your military career (sometimes before it even begins) and create issues with immigration status, preventing you from gaining permanent US citizenship and forcing you to face possible deportation.

At the Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor, our attorneys have specialized in DUI law and know the intricacies created by precedent, the gray areas; we can quickly assess the weaknesses and strengths of a case, and whether your civil liberties have been violated. Every single step we take with your case is built upon the cornerstone of experience, immersive legal knowledge, and caring about the best possible outcomes for our clients.

Our experienced California DUI attorneys know the law, how best to negotiate with prosecutors, and help you get the best outcomes so you can continue with your life and leave California DUI charges in your rearview mirror.


Talk To A DUI Defense Attorney

An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. A lawyer serving DUI clients will often offer a free no obligation consultation and everything discussed is protected by the attorney client relationship.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.

Interested in this topic, or other topics similar to it? Find more articles on our blog, updated regularly!


DUI Checkpoints, the Fourth Amendment, and the Court Cases That Changed Them

DUI Checkpoints, the Fourth Amendment, and the Court Cases That Changed Them


Many people are familiar with DUI checkpoints in California: the flashing lights and signs, the cones and barricades, uniformed officers with flashlights in hand. Late at night or in the early hours of the morning, law enforcement officers screen drivers to check for possible driver impairments: if a driver is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Some who pass through those checkpoints are impaired—their hands shake as they hand over their identification and they feel their stomachs sink when they are asked to perform a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer.

Additionally, tow truck operators are often at DUI checkpoints, waiting for the Southern California drunk driver who will be escorted to jail and whose vehicle will be towed. EMTs are often waiting as well just in case someone has reached a dangerously high blood alcohol concentration. Unfortunately, this does happen and is a testament to the dangers of alcohol: due to alcohol consumption, the individual driving can barely walk. Alcohol’s influence on the brain impairs judgement, reduces inhibitions, distorts perceptions, and impairs attention and concentration.

A holiday like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day can quickly become a nightmare if a person is arrested for driving under the influence at a Southern California DUI checkpoint.


The Controversial History of DUI Checkpoints in Southern California

The reach and power of California checkpoints themselves have been tempered by the law in a litany of court cases that have called into question everything from whether they violate the Fourth Amendment to if they are allowed to extend beyond traffic and highway safety to actually be utilized in curbing general criminal activity.

What exists now is a long history of cases on both coasts, and all the states in-between, that question the legality and constitutionality of DUI checkpoints. Scrutiny of DUI checkpoints has not waned thanks to intrepid defense attorneys who have debated their efficacy and helped rein in what was otherwise a complete and indiscriminate violation of motorists’ rights, whether they were law abiding or otherwise.


In this blog post, we’re going to briefly discuss these cases and how they have shaped California DUI checkpoints.


Brown v. Texas

This 1979 court case doesn’t directly pertain to DUI checkpoints, but it did help shape them.

In Brown v. Texas, the Supreme Court weighed the constitutionality of Texas Statute Section 38.02(a) of the Texas Penal Code, that authorized police officers to stop individuals and demand identification without reason or suspicion.


The background of the case stems from Mr. Brown being approached by police officers when he was walking down the street. When he refused to identify himself, as officers requested, he was arrested and charged in violation of that statute.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that the statute violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Supreme Court emphasized in its decision that in order for an officer to stop and detain an individual, they must have a reasonable suspicion that the person is engaged in criminal activity.

Although this decision does not directly pertain to DUI checkpoints, its clear and firm principles regarding Constitutionally afforded rights have been applied to DUI cases involving sobriety checks or DUI checkpoints.

Thanks to Brown v. Texas, law enforcement officials can’t indiscriminately stop or detain a motorist. Even at California DUI checkpoints, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause detain or stop motorists. This means that random, warrantless stops and/or detentions of individuals Southern California drivers can’t occur – drivers can’t be detained without any specific suspicion or evidence of wrongdoing.

Aspects of the legality of an California DUI arrest now hinge on whether checkpoints comply with the guidelines established in Brown v. Texas.

This case proved instrumental in shaping the constitutionality and implementation of DUI checkpoints by establishing limitation on law enforcement authority to conduct warrantless stops.


Here are some of the most influential cases regarding DUI checkpoints in the US:


Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz (1990):

In this landmark case, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints. The case involved a challenge to the Michigan State Police’s sobriety checkpoint program. The Court ruled that the state’s interest in preventing drunk driving and ensuring public safety outweighed the limited intrusion on motorists’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.


Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987):

The California Supreme Court decision in Ingersoll v. Palmer established guidelines for the constitutionally permissible operation of DUI checkpoints in California specifically. The court held that checkpoints must adhere to specific guidelines to minimize intrusion California drivers would have to endure and to ensure effectiveness. These guidelines included factors such as proper warning, neutral location selection, reasonable time and duration, and the use of supervisory personnel. Again, drivers can’t be detained without any specific suspicion or evidence of wrongdoing.


State v. McLaughlin (1995):

The Washington Supreme Court decision in State v. McLaughlin set forth guidelines for DUI checkpoints in Washington State. Although this decision is not legally binding precedent for California DUI checkpoints, it still provides California guidelines and advice on the issue. The court ruled that for a checkpoint to be constitutional, it must be conducted pursuant to a written policy that limits the discretion of officers in the field, minimizes intrusion on motorists, and ensures the checkpoint’s primary purpose is to detect impaired drivers.


City of Indianapolis v. Edmond (2000):

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that checkpoints conducted with the primary purpose of general crime control, rather than highway safety, were unconstitutional. The Court held that checkpoints must be designed to serve a primary purpose of highway safety, such as preventing drunk driving, rather than simply detecting general criminal activity. To simply act for the purpose of detecting general criminal activity would be far too broad, and would impinge on individuals’ rights.


State v. Ladson (2002):

The Florida Supreme Court decision in State v. Ladson invalidated the state’s sobriety checkpoint program because it lacked proper guidelines. Akin to the decision of Washington State’s State v. McLaughlin case, although State v. Ladson is not legally binding precedent for California DUI checkpoints, it still provides California guidelines and advice on the issue. The court emphasized the importance of clear written policies and guidelines to ensure that checkpoints are conducted in a constitutional manner, safeguarding against arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

As demonstrated in these cases, the legal landscape of DUI checkpoints is perpetually evolving thanks to court cases and legislative actions on the state and federal levels brought by experienced DUI attorneys. Cases continue to push against the legality and constitutionality of DUI checkpoints and persist in refining the powers granted to law enforcement, continually trying to curb arbitrary stops and discriminatory enforcement.


What Are California DUI Checkpoints Like?

Thanks to the legal roadmap created by decades of court cases, particularly the California Supreme Court case of Ingersoll v. Palmer, sobriety checkpoints must now function within specific parameters.

Here is an overview of how Southern California DUI Checkpoints function and when you can be detained:

Notification and location selection: Prior to the checkpoint, law enforcement agencies are required to provide advance public notice regarding the time and location of the checkpoint. This notification can be through press releases, media outlets, or signs posted near the checkpoint site. The location selection must be based on relevant factors such as DUI accident or arrest rates. This is to ensure transparency and compliance with constitutional standards.


Visible and identifiable: DUI checkpoints must be conducted in a manner that makes them readily identifiable as a law enforcement operation. Typically, they are marked with signs, cones, flashing lights, and police vehicles to ensure their visibility to motorists.


Neutral and systematic screening: The checkpoint must be conducted in a neutral and systematic manner. This means that all vehicles passing through the checkpoint should be subject to the same screening process, regardless of the occupants’ characteristics.


Minimal intrusion: The guidelines emphasize that the intrusion on motorists’ privacy must be minimal. This includes ensuring that the checkpoint stops are brief and that the law enforcement officers follow specific procedures during the screening process.


Reasonable suspicion or probable cause: Under California law, you can be detained for further investigation at a DUI checkpoint if the officers have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This can include indicators such as the odor of alcohol, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or other signs of impairment.


It’s important to note that while you can be detained for further investigation based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause, simply passing through a DUI checkpoint does not provide law enforcement officers with sufficient grounds to detain you. The primary purpose of the checkpoint is to screen for impaired drivers, and absent any indications of impairment or other reasonable suspicion, motorists should be allowed to continue without further delay.


When do DUI Checkpoints Usually Occur in Southern California?

DUI checkpoints in Southern California can be set up at various times throughout the year. However, they tend to be more common during certain periods, such as holidays and weekends, when there is a higher likelihood of alcohol-related incidents or impaired driving.

Some of the times when DUI checkpoints are often set up in Southern California include:


Holidays: DUI checkpoints are frequently established during major holidays associated with increased alcohol consumption, such as New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. These checkpoints aim to deter and identify impaired drivers during times when festivities and celebrations are more prevalent.


Weekends: Weekends, particularly Friday and Saturday nights, are times when DUI checkpoints are frequently set up. These nights tend to have higher instances of alcohol-related activities, parties, and social gatherings, making them a priority for law enforcement agencies to prevent impaired driving incidents.


Special enforcement campaigns: Law enforcement agencies may conduct DUI checkpoints as part of special enforcement campaigns focused on impaired driving prevention. These campaigns can coincide with specific periods such as “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaigns or other regional initiatives aimed at raising awareness and deterring impaired driving.


No matter where you are or the cause for celebration, it’s important to be mindful of safety and your rights when you come upon an Orange California DUI checkpoint. Remember, the current DUI checkpoint procedures—the advanced public notice, the inability for law enforcement to detain you without proper suspicion—came to fruition from court cases spanning decades. Regular people who hired experienced DUI attorneys when they saw that something was wrong with the system and saw an opportunity to at least partially fix it.


Talk To A DUI Defense Attorney

An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. A lawyer serving DUI clients will often offer a free no obligation consultation and everything discussed is protected by the attorney client relationship.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.

Interested in this topic, or other topics similar to it? Find more articles on our blog, updated regularly!

The Only 3 Effective DUI Field Tests

The Only 3 Effective DUI Field Tests

Police officers use field sobriety tests (“FSTs”) when they stop a driver suspected of being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. The three standardized field sobriety tests (“SFSTs”) are considered the most reliable FSTs and the tests recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for use by law enforcement agencies. However, police officers also use non-standardized field sobriety tests. Unfortunately, all tests have potential issues that can make the results unreliable.

The Purpose and Types of DUI Field Sobriety Tests

How do police officers use field sobriety tests during DUI investigations in California?

California uses the three standardized field sobriety tests to conduct DUI investigations during traffic stops. The purpose of conducting the tests is to determine whether a driver is impaired. The tests also serve to provide probable cause for a DUI arrest. A police officer must have probable cause to believe the person is intoxicated before making a lawful DUI arrest.

Three tests were chosen as standardized field sobriety tests. Each test has specific instructions and procedures for giving the test to a driver. Any deviation from the procedures could make the test results inaccurate and unreliable. Those three tests are: (1) Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (“HGN”); (2) Walk and Turn Test (“WAT”); and (3) One-Leg Stand Test (“OLS”).

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (“HGN”)

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test checks for involuntary “eye jerking” or nystagmus, which occurs when a person looks to the side without turning their head. The severity of the “jerking” increases when a person is intoxicated. An HGN test can also detect when a person has consumed certain prescription medications and illegal drugs.

The police officer performs the test by instructing the person to focus on a stimulus, which is usually a small object, finger, or pen. The officer moves the stimulus horizontally across the person’s line of sight about a foot to 15 inches away. As the driver’s eye follows the object, the police officer watches for signs of increased nystagmus including:

  • Inability to follow the object smoothly;
  • Distinct jerking at maximum deviation; and
  • Substantial eye jerking within a minimum of 45 degrees from the center.

The officer looks for the signs in each eye, checking for six total signs of increased nystagmus.

Walk and Turn Test (“WAT”)

The Walk and Turn Test is the test most people are familiar with due to its depiction in movies and television. During the WAT, a police officer instructs the driver to take nine steps along a straight line, turn around, and then take nine steps back to the starting point. The steps must be heel-to-toe steps.  The officer instructs the driver to count the steps out loud as they take each step. The officer watches for eight indications that the person might be impaired:

  • Inability to balance while listening to instructions;
  • Making an improper turn;
  • Beginning to walk before the officer instructs the person to begin the test;
  • Taking the wrong number of steps;
  • Stopping to regain balance while walking;
  • Stepping out of line;
  • Failing to touch the heels to the toes; and
  • Using the arms for balancing.

The standardized instructions state that if the person displays at least two of the eight indicators, they fail the walk-and-turn test.

One-Leg Stand Test (“OLS”)

The police officer instructs the person to stand still and lift one foot off the ground about six inches. The officer instructs the person to count by one until the officer tells them to stop while holding their foot off the ground. The standardized instructions state the officer should time the suspect and stop them in 30 seconds. The officer looks for four indicators of impairment:

  • Hopping during the test;
  • Repeatedly swaying during the test;
  • Putting their foot down one or more times; and
  • Using the arms to maintain balance.

The standardized instructions state that committing two or more of the four indicators means the person failed the one-leg stand test.

Field Sobriety Tests: Potential Problems and Challenges

Even though the above tests are widely considered reliable indicators of driving under the influence, there are many problems with the tests. Critics cite issues with the accuracy and reliability of test results. They also question environmental factors and the actions of police officers that could result in flawed test results.

What Do the Tests Mean if You Fail?

The police officer should refer to their FSTs training to determine if the person “failed” a field sobriety test. As indicated above, specific instructions in the training materials indicate when a person has “failed” the test.

If the officer decides that you failed one or more of the FSTs, the officer will likely state they have probable cause for a DUI arrest. The officer may then ask the driver to take a preliminary alcohol screening (“PAS”) test, which is generally a field breathalyzer machine. A BAC (“blood alcohol content”) level on the breathalyzer gives the officer additional probable cause to make an arrest for DUI.

After a lawful DUI arrest, California’s implied consent laws require individuals to take a chemical test. The police officer should ask the person whether they want to provide a sample for a breath test or a blood test for chemical testing. Urine tests are only used when blood and breath tests are unavailable.

Field Sobriety Tests: Accuracy, Limitations, and Criticism

There are limits to using field sobriety tests during a DUI stop. There are also questions regarding the accuracy of field sobriety tests. Some of the issues that DUI defense attorneys raise regarding the use of FSTs in DUI cases include:

  • The accuracy of field sobriety tests;
  • Failing to provide clear and correct instructions;
  • Environmental factors;
  • Medical conditions;
  • Being nervous &/or scared; and
  • The subjectivity of SFSTs.


The Accuracy of Field Sobriety Tests

Several studies have been conducted on the accuracy of FSTs in determining whether a driver is impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. The NHTSA Instructor Guide for the tests explains that three studies were conducted between 1995 and 1998. The studies were conducted in San Diego, Florida, and Colorado. Each study resulted in different conclusions regarding the accuracy of FSTs.

The Instructor Manual states that officers should use the San Diego Field Validation Study when testifying in court. That study indicated the following accuracy rates:

  • HGN tests were 88% accurate;
  • OLS tests were 83% accurate; and
  • WAT tests were 79% accurate.

Even though the NHTSA claims that the study results provide clear evidence of the validity of standardized field sobriety tests, California DUI defense lawyers disagree. First, these tests are not 100% accurate. Moreover, other scientific tests have shown that the accuracy of these tests is questionable.

One study used sober individuals to perform standardized FSTs. After watching videos of people taking the tests, police officers believed that a significantly larger number of the people were impaired. Another study concluded that the HGN test has a high baseline error and varied greatly depending on whether the person’s BAC level was rising or falling. In 52 videos of DUI arrests, the study authors concluded the HGN test was incorrectly administered 51 times.

Additionally, other factors make the accuracy and validity of the tests questionable.

Failing to Provide Clear and Correct Instructions

The police officer administering the SFSTs must follow the exact procedures for giving the test to a driver. Deviation from the procedures could result in inaccurate results. However, suppose there is no body camera footage, other video footage, or audio evidence that the officer gave the person clear and correct instructions. In that case, there is no way to know if the officer purposefully or unintentionally caused the person to “fail” the field sobriety test.

Environmental Factors

Numerous environmental factors could invalidate the results of standardized field sobriety tests. For example, the officer should conduct the tests on a level, paved surface. Otherwise, the person may stumble or lose their balance because of the ground, but not because they are impaired by alcohol. Another example is conducting the HGN test with bright lights shining in the person’s eyes from the sun or oncoming traffic. The lights could cause unreliable results.

Medical Conditions

Another problem to consider is the person’s health condition. A person may have a medical condition that prevents them from passing the test even though they are sober. In addition, a person’s age could cause them to perform poorly on a test even though they are perfectly capable of operating the motor vehicle safely. Physical limitations may prevent someone from “passing” the one-leg stand test or the walk-and-turn test.

Some medications could cause a person to exhibit signs of intoxication even though they are sober and not impaired. For example, some medications for seizures can cause increased nystagmus even though the person is sober. In addition, there are dozens of other possible causes of nystagmus, including hypertension, eye strain, glaucoma, and consuming excessive amounts of caffeine.

Being Nervous and Scared

Merely being nervous about being pulled over and scared of being arrested could cause someone to perform poorly on SFSTs.

SFSTs are Subjective

Whether you fail or pass a sobriety test depends upon the officer’s interpretation of your performance during the tests. In other words, one officer might conclude you were intoxicated and arrest you for drunk driving. Another police officer might conclude that you are not impaired and release you without an arrest. A study conducted using police officers, bartenders, and university community members found that the group had less than a 25% accuracy rate when correctly determining how drunk a person was after observing the targets for several minutes. Furthermore, the accuracy of the ratings worsened as the targets’ level of intoxication increased.

If a police officer has some bias against the person, the officer might unethically or unconsciously interpret the results in favor of probable cause and an arrest. For example, a driver was rude and obnoxious when the officer made the initial traffic stop. The person was critical and uncooperative. In that case, the officer might decide that the person is drunk and make the arrest, even though the results of the SFSTs were borderline.

Non-Standard Field Sobriety Tests

Some jurisdictions also use non-standardized field sobriety tests to determine impairment to support probable cause for a DUI arrest. Police officers claim the non-standard FSTs are reliable because they require the person to utilize split focus and dexterity, which is difficult to do if the person is drunk or drugged. However, these non-standardized tests are unreliable and highly subjective. Some non-standard field sobriety tests used by police officers include:

  • Romberg Balance Test – Closing the eyes and tipping the head backward while standing with the feet together, estimating when 30 seconds have passed, and then saying “stop” to the officer.
  • Finger-to-Nose Test – Closing the eyes and touching a finger to the tip of the nose.
  • ABC Test – Reciting the alphabet forwards or backward.
  • Finger-Tap Test – Tap a finger to your thumb as fast as possible with an opening between taps as wide as possible.
  • Numbers Backward Test – Counting backward.
  • Stand and Gaze Test – Standing and leaning so that the person gazes at the sky while holding their arms to their sides.
  • Hand Pat Test – Extend an arm out with the palm facing up and out. Place the other hand on top of the raised palm facing down. Rotate the hands 180 degrees to pat the bottom hand with the back of the other hand before rotating and doing it again while counting “one” and “two” each time.

The NHTSA does not recognize these tests as reliable indicators of whether a person is impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. A skilled California DUI defense attorney will challenge these test results in court. Challenging non-standard field sobriety tests is easier because they are not widely accepted as accurate indicators of intoxication or impairment.

Field Sobriety Test Refusals – Drivers Aren’t Required to Participate in Field Sobriety Tests

No California law punishes a person for refusing to take a field sobriety test. However, a police officer will not tell you this detail. Instead, the officer will only ask you to perform the tests without indicating that you may refuse the test without punishment. Understanding your right to refuse to take a field sobriety test is essential because sober people can fail the tests.

However, there is a difference between field sobriety tests and chemical tests for BAC levels. California’s implied consent laws require drivers to submit to a chemical test of their blood or breath after a lawful DUI arrest. Refusing a chemical test after a DUI arrest results in an administrative driver’s license suspension by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”). Your driving privileges are suspended for one year for a first-time refusal of a chemical test. A second refusal within ten years results in a two-year revocation of your driver’s license.

However, if you are under 21 years old or on probation, refusing a chemical test after a DUI arrest of a preliminary alcohol screening (“PAS”) test after being detained results in a one-year driver’s license suspension for the first refusal and two-year revocation for a second refusal within ten years.

California Vehicle Code §23612 states that an officer must advise you that refusing the chemical test could result in a suspension of your driving privileges. Your California DUI attorney might be able to successfully argue against the DMV administrative license suspension if the officer failed to provide the required advisements.

How Field Sobriety Test Results Are Used in Court & Challenging FSTs Results in California

The prosecution uses the results from field sobriety tests in court in several ways. First, the prosecutor may use the FSTs to support the finding that the police officer had probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence.

If you are charged with driving under the influence, the prosecutor uses field sobriety tests to support the allegation that you were too impaired to drive. This situation often occurs when the driver refuses to take a chemical test. The state does not have evidence of the BAC level at the time of the arrest. Therefore, it must prove that your ability to operate the vehicle was impaired.

When you are charged with DUI per se, the state has BAC test results showing that you were driving with a BAC over the legal limit. Generally, the BAC test results are sufficient to prove the state’s case if there is no valid DUI defense to convince the jury you were not drunk or under the influence of drugs. However, a prosecutor might use the FSTs results as additional evidence you were drinking and driving.

A skilled California DUI lawyer challenges the results of standardized FSTs in court. The attorney might challenge the results in one of several ways including:

  • Challenging the reliability of the tests based on data showing a considerable margin for error. The attorney might hire an expert witness to provide testimony regarding the accuracy of the test.
  • Providing evidence that the law enforcement officer failed to administer the standard FSTs according to the procedures in the NHTSA manual.
  • Offering evidence proving that the test results were negatively impacted by a medical condition, legal prescription medications, or environmental factors.
  • Your clothing, lack of sleep, muscle fatigue, advanced age, injuries, weight, or other extraneous conditions caused poor performance on the FSTs.
  • The officer administered non-standardized field sobriety tests.

There could be other challenges and DUI defenses in your case. Schedule a free consultation to talk with a DUI lawyer about potential defenses to drunk driving charges.

Talk to a California DUI Defense Attorney

Fighting DUI charges begins with hiring an experienced DUI defense attorney. Contact a criminal defense lawyer for a free consultation to discuss your case. Most attorneys offer a free consultation so that you can get answers to your questions about DUI defense and your legal rights to make an informed decision about how you want to proceed with your DUI case.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.

Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our blog, which is updated regularly!




What Happens to Your Vehicle After a DUI Arrest in CA?

Driving under the influence in California has immediate and long-term consequences. After a DUI arrest, the police officer seizes your driver’s license. In addition, depending on the circumstances of your arrest, the police officer may impound your vehicle after a DUI arrest. 

After your car is impounded, understanding your legal rights can help you get your car back quickly. However, be prepared to pay an impound fee and possibly install an ignition interlock device (IID) if you want to continue driving on a restricted driver’s license.

When Do Police Officers Impound Vehicles After a DUI Arrest?

If a police officer arrests you for drunk driving, the question arises of what to do with your vehicle. Leaving a vehicle on the side of the road is rarely an option. California Vehicle Code §22651 gives police officers authority to remove vehicles if they take you into custody. 

Generally, police officers are required to have vehicles towed to the police impound lot when:

  • Your vehicle is evidence or part of a crime scene (i.e., a DUI accident involving injuries or fatalities)
  • The vehicle’s condition does not permit someone to drive it safely 
  • There are no nearby locations to park and leave your car legally and safely
  • You have prior DUI convictions on your driving record during the past ten years

However, a police officer may not automatically impound your car if you have a prior DUI. The officer might not take the time to review your driving history during a DUI traffic stop. Instead, the officer might focus solely on the current drunk driving offense. 

If the law does not require a police officer to impound your vehicle, your attitude during the DUI stop can significantly impact the officer’s decisions regarding vehicle impoundment. 

The police officer may allow a sober passenger to drive the vehicle. Officers might pull your vehicle to a safe location at a DUI checkpoint. However, someone must pick up your vehicle before the end of the DUI checkpoint. Generally, only the registered owner can pick up a car at a DUI checkpoint. However, the officer might allow you to designate someone to pick up your vehicle if you are the registered owner.

An officer could offer to drive your vehicle a short distance to a parking lot or other safe location. However, if you are belligerent, disrespectful, and uncooperative, the officer is unlikely to “see” a safe parking location nearby the traffic stop.

Can the Court Impound My Car After a DUI Arrest in California?

Yes, the court may impound your vehicle as part of the DUI penalties. For a first-time DUI conviction, the judge may order your car to remain in the impound lot for up to 30 days or not at all. A second DUI results in impoundment for up to 30 days. After three or more DUIs, the court can impound your vehicle for 90 days.

Having your vehicle impounded after a DUI in California is expensive. Whenever possible, try to avoid impoundment by politely asking the police officer if there is a way to have your vehicle parked or someone pick it up to avoid the impound lot. 

Another way to avoid a long impound period is to agree to install an ignition interlock device (IID). It may be expensive, but you might be able to continue driving if you qualify for a restricted driver’s license with IID installation. 

While asset forfeiture is not common, it can happen as part of a DUI case. When your vehicle is used to commit a crime, the law states that you can lose ownership of your car (asset forfeiture). In a DUI case, forfeiting your car generally only occurs if:

  • The court declares your vehicle a nuisance because you have numerous DUI convictions within seven years
  • You were involved in a DUI accident that resulted in a traffic fatality
  • Your drunk driving arrest involved illegal drugs, especially if the police officer seizure illegal drugs from your car when they searched it

Seeking legal advice from an experienced California DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest is in your best interest. A DUI attorney reviews your case and advises you of your legal options for fighting DUI charges and vehicle impoundments or forfeitures. 

What Should I Do if My Car is Impounded After a DUI in California?

Acting fast can save you money after the police impound your car. You pay a fee for each day your car remains in the impound lot. The longer you wait to reclaim your vehicle from an impound lot, the higher the fees are to reclaim your vehicle.

To get your car back after a DUI impoundment, you need:

  • Proof of vehicle registration showing you are the registered owner
  • Proof of required liability insurance 
  • Your temporary driver’s license or Notice of Suspension
  • Payment for all fees and costs charged for the impound, including fees for towing, daily storage, indoor storage, lien, and after-hours charges

You cannot retrieve your car until the police or the court release the vehicle from impound. The state only releases impounded vehicles to their registered owner. Therefore, if someone else was driving your vehicle, you do not need to wait to retrieve your car. However, you are responsible for paying the impound fees.

Some drivers may not be able to pay the fees to get their vehicles out of impound. Long impound periods could result in fees totaling more than a vehicle is worth. If you do not pick up your car from impound, your car may be sold at auction to pay the impound fees. Check with a California DUI attorney to determine the deadline for picking up your vehicle from impound after a DUI arrest.

What Happens to You After a DUI Arrest in California?

The police officers transport you to jail after a DUI arrest. California Vehicle Code §23152 makes it unlawful to:

  • Drive a passenger vehicle with a BAC level of .08% or higher
  • Operate a commercial motor vehicle or a vehicle with a passenger for hire in the car with a BAC of .04% or higher
  • Operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol
  • Drive a motor vehicle under the influence of any drug
  • Operate a motor vehicle under the influence of a combination of any drug and alcohol 

A police officer initiates a traffic stop if the officer has probable cause to believe a crime is being or has been committed. For example, the officer may pull you over if he witnesses driving behavior that indicates you might be impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. However, the officer may also pull you over for a traffic infraction.

If the police officer suspects you are impaired during the traffic stop, he may request that you take a pre-assessment screen test, such as a roadside breathalyzer or cheek swab. You can refuse field sobriety tests and roadside preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) tests without penalty. 

However, California’s implied consent law requires you to take a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) level after an arrest for drunk driving. Refusal to submit to chemical testing after a DUI arrest can result in additional jail time and a longer duration for DUI school. 

Refusing a chemical BAC test after a DUI arrest results in an automatic license suspension. You cannot receive a restricted driver’s license at any time during the license suspension period for refusing a chemical test.

What Are the Penalties for a Drunk Driving Conviction in California?

The sentence for a DUI conviction depends on your prior DUI history and whether there are aggravating factors involved in your drunk driving case. 

DUIs are priorable criminal offenses in California. Therefore, the severity of the penalties for each subsequent DUI conviction within ten years increases. A felony DUI conviction can be counted against you regardless of when you were convicted. 

Aggravating factors can also increase the severity of DUI punishments. Aggravating factors that enhance a DUI sentence include, but might not be limited to:

  • Having a high BAC level (generally .15% or higher) at the time of your arrest
  • Being under 21 years old at the time of a DUI arrest
  • Having a minor under 14 years of age in the car while driving under the influence
  • Excessive speed (i.e., driving 20 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit)
  • Causing injuries or death while driving under the influence 
  • Refusal to submit to a chemical test
  • Driving under the influence while on DUI probation

Assuming that this is your first DUI conviction and there were no aggravating factors to enhance the DUI sentence, the judge could punish you with:

  • Six-month loss of driving privileges
  • Fines and assessments of up to $2,000
  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Attending DUI school for three to nine months
  • Summary (informal) probation for three to five years

The court may also require you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) for up to six months. 

You can fight DUI charges with the help of a California DUI lawyer. Violations of your civil rights, lack of probable cause, challenges to BAC tests, and violations of Title 17 are just a few DUI defenses that could beat DUI charges.

The first step is to seek legal advice from a trusted, experienced DUI defense attorney in California. 

DUI Sobriety Checkpoints in California – Do Police Need Probable Cause?

No, California law enforcement officers do not need probable cause to stop a motorist at a DUI sobriety checkpoint. You could get arrested legally at a DUI sobriety checkpoint without the officer having probable cause to stop you.

You could, however, challenge the arrest if the checkpoint did not meet all the legal requirements our state law imposes on DUI sobriety checkpoints. A California DUI attorney can talk with you and examine whether a dismissal of the charges could be possible.

The Requirements for a DUI Sobriety Checkpoint to be Legal Under the California Constitution

In the 1987 case of Ingersoll v. Palmer, the California Supreme Court compared sobriety checkpoints to other administrative inspections, like airport screening searches. The Court held that law enforcement officers do not have to follow the 4th amendment at DUI roadblocks because these are administrative inspections, not searches and seizures.

The Court explained its decision to treat sobriety checkpoints as administrative inspections, not as searches and seizures, because “the primary purpose of the stop here was not to discover evidence of a crime or to make arrests of drunk drivers but to promote public safety by deterring intoxicated persons from driving on the public streets and highways.” 

As such, the California Supreme Court said that sobriety checkpoint stops do not require an individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. Instead, the Court said that the California constitution requires balancing the intrusiveness of the detention against the governmental interests.

Other Types of Regulatory Inspections and Stops

The Court in Ingersoll gave several examples of regulatory inspections in the stops that are legal according to the United States Supreme Court and California courts without the need for an individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. These include:

  • Border Patrol or immigration checkpoint inspections
  • Agricultural inspection checkpoints
  • Vehicle mechanical inspections
  • License and registration inspection checkpoints

The California Supreme Court in Ingersoll said that DUI sobriety checkpoints create a lesser intrusion on the individual’s 4th amendment interests than Border Patrol or immigration checkpoint inspections because, during the brief sobriety detention, neither the vehicle nor the occupant gets searched. The driver only needs to answer a question or two and possibly show the officer one’s driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.

The Justification for California DUI Sobriety Checkpoints

Law enforcement agencies across the United States have used a variety of approaches to try to address the drunk driving problem. Public awareness campaigns, increased patrols and arrests, and more severe penalties for DUI convictions have done little to tackle one of the most significant challenges, which is that the public knows that their risk of getting caught driving while intoxicated is quite low.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) developed a pilot project of sobriety checkpoints in order to try to discourage people from driving after consuming alcoholic beverages. The CHP said they would rather deter drunk driving than have to make arrests and charge people with DUIs. The goal, according to law enforcement, is to decrease DUI arrests and alcohol-related accidents, not increase them.

Of course, when law enforcement officers break the rules and set up an illegal DUI sobriety checkpoint for the purpose of trapping unsuspecting drivers, there might be grounds for challenging an arrest.

California Supreme Court Created Functional Guidelines to Minimize the Intrusiveness of DUI Sobriety Checkpoint Stops

The Ingersoll court articulated eight requirements for legal DUI sobriety checkpoints in California. These guidelines are:

  1. The typical law enforcement officer in the field cannot decide on his or her own to set up a sobriety checkpoint. The risk of allowing that conduct is the potential for arbitrary and capricious enforcement of the law. Instead, supervisory or command-level law enforcement personnel are the only ones who can legally decide to use a checkpoint, select the location, and create the operational procedures. The upper-level law enforcement personnel must distribute detailed program regulations to the officers who will work at the checkpoint.
  2. Officers in the field will have strict limits on their discretion when working at DUI sobriety checkpoints. An officer will not be allowed to decide to stop any particular driver or car without a legitimate basis for that decision. The field officers must use a neutral formula, for example, stopping every single driver who pulls up to the checkpoint or, in the interest of keeping traffic flowing, only stopping every 5th or 12th driver or some other neutral formula.
  3. The sobriety checkpoint must not create an unsafe condition for motorists or officers. To minimize the risk of danger to drivers, passengers, and police, the law enforcement personnel must be clearly identifiable as officers. They must use clearly marked official vehicles. The checkpoint must have sufficient warning signs, signals, and lighting to create a safe environment. If traffic becomes backed up because of the randomized stops, the field officers can adjust the neutral formula or temporarily suspend making stops until traffic clears.
  4. The location of the checkpoint must be reasonable. Because the governmental interest is to deter people from driving while impaired by alcohol, the supervisory law enforcement personnel who select the locations should choose sites that will be most effective in achieving that interest. In other words, sobriety checkpoints should be set up on streets that have a high number of alcohol-related arrests or accidents. 
  5. A checkpoint must balance intrusiveness and effectiveness in terms of the time of day that the officers operate the checkpoint and how many hours the checkpoint will be operational. Safety is also an issue. A DUI sobriety checkpoint is more likely to be effective if it operates during the hours when people are more likely to drive while impaired by alcohol, for example, late at night and in the very early morning hours. Operating a checkpoint doing during those hours, however, could be more hazardous to motorists and officers.
  6. Motorists need to be able to tell at a glance that the DUI roadblock Is official and authorized and is not operated by rogues waylaying unsuspecting motorists. The general public is wary of criminals who impersonate police officers. The roadblock should incorporate flashing lights, warning signs, and adequate lighting. The fact that it is a sobriety checkpoint should be highly visible. Uniformed officers and marked police vehicles must be present. The government agency must provide advance warning of a DUI checkpoint to minimize intrusiveness to motorists and to reassure them that the roadblock is legitimate.
  7. Supervisory law enforcement personnel must promulgate detailed guidelines on the length and nature of the detention of the random drivers who get stopped in DUI sobriety checkpoints. The stops must be as brief as possible for the officer to ask the driver one or two questions and look for signs of intoxication. If the driver does not show symptoms of being impaired by alcohol, the driver should not be delayed any further from driving on down the road. When an officer observes signs of alcohol use, the officer can direct the driver to a separate area of the checkpoint for field sobriety tests. In the separate area, those officers would have to have probable cause to conduct further investigation. The incident would no longer be an administrative inspection, but rather, the constitutional protections around traffic stops and arrests would apply to the situation.
  8. As mentioned earlier, the government agency must provide advance publicity. A DUI sobriety checkpoint without sufficient advanced publicity could be considered arbitrary and capricious and violate the constitutional rights of motorists. The general public should get informed that law enforcement will be conducting sobriety checkpoints at specific locations, dates, and times. This publicity would serve the governmental interest of deterring drunk drivers from using those streets. The ultimate goal of the warning is that people would do their driving at home, take a taxicab if they have had too much to drink, or choose not to drink to the point of impairment from alcohol before driving.

When police departments set up DUI sobriety checkpoints that violate one or more of these eight guidelines, a person arrested at such a stop might have grounds to ask the judge to dismiss the criminal charges. The enforcement of traffic law must comply with state and federal constitutional protections. Police officers must minimize intrusiveness on the lives of the general public.

Signs of Intoxication

Officers working at sobriety checkpoints in California are allowed to ask one or two brief questions of the people they briefly detain. The purpose of asking the questions is to give the police officer the opportunity to look for symptoms of alcohol impairment of the driver, including:

  • Fumbling when trying to locate one’s driver’s license to show the officer
  • Bloodshot or glassy eyes 
  • Slurred speech when talking to the officer
  • Smelling alcohol on the breath of the driver or in the vehicle

The police officer is not limited to these examples of intoxication symptoms. The officer can direct the driver to another area of the checkpoint for additional investigation as long as objective facts support probable cause or reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired by alcohol.

What Happens if a Driver Does Not Cooperate with the Officer at a DUI Checkpoint

The consequences of refusing to comply with the instructions from a law enforcement officer at a DUI sobriety checkpoint depend on the point at which the driver does not cooperate. California law requires everyone who operates a motor vehicle on public streets to cooperate with DUI sobriety checkpoints. 

You will likely be charged with violating the traffic laws if you do not follow the directives of uniformed law enforcement at a legal California sobriety checkpoint. 

Because the checkpoint is an administrative inspection, not a regular traffic stop, taking a field sobriety test, breathalyzer, or other tests before getting arrested is optional. If you refuse, however, the officer will likely arrest you for DUI, at which point refusing a breathalyzer or similar test will get your license suspended automatically for one year, in addition to other consequences.

If you or someone you know is facing a DUI, a California DUI attorney can help to protect your legal rights and aggressively pursue the best possible outcome in your situation.