Legal Defenses to a Sobriety Check Point
As a general rule, unreasonable searches and seizures are prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment which means that a person can only be detained for DUI if probable cause is established or through a valid arrest warrant. And no less than the United States Supreme Court held in the case of Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), that sobriety checkpoints are within the bounds of the law provided it was conducted in accordance with the guidelines. The United States Supreme Court and California Supreme Court provided certain protocols to be followed during the conduct of the police sobriety checkpoints.
In a number of cases, many people have plead guilty to DUI because the accused felt that the evidence against them was undefeatable. Thus, in defending a drunk driving case, the DUI lawyer must have a strong grasp of the police sobriety checkpoint. The lawyer must pinpoint the lapses or the non compliance during the pre-trial of the protocol set by the court in conducting checkpoint if such checkpoint is conducted in accordance with the Constitution. The following must be determined:
- The identity of the law enforcers involved, both civilian and uniformed;
- The identity of the law enforcement officials who were tasked to select the site and procedure in conducting the roadblock, reports and memoranda outlining the procedure in the roadblock;
- The diagrams of the road block site.
- The identity of other people who were apprehended during the roadblock. Their testimony in the case may be admissible in court to prove that proper protocols were not followed during the road block;
- The duration for which the driver was stopped at the roadblock;
- If chemical test were given and who conducted the procedure;
- If the public were given early notice of the checkpoint;
- The duration and timing of the roadblock;
- If the roadblock had an official appearance such as warning signs, lights etc..
- If the enforcers ensured the safety of the drivers;
- Whether drivers were allowed or had the opportunity to turn away from the roadblock.
Among the legal defenses to a police sobriety checkpoint include raising issues regarding mouth alcohol which can is subject to a number of errors, the most common of which is instrument malfunction. The breath test is notoriously unreliable as it is a “one size fits all” machine yet individual factors like body weight, gender, and health (asthma for example) can skew the results of the test. Still another defense would be tainted blood test. Moreover a skilled Orange County defense attorney could raise as a defense that the law enforcement officer deviated from the proper procedure during the conducting of the investigation and there was no probable cause in apprehending or stopping the driver.
A DUI lawyer evaluates the case in accordance with the evidence gathered and through the testimony of the witnesses and client. As soon as relevant evidence is gathered, the DUI lawyer determines the appropriate defenses to free the client from unjust judgment.
The Fourteenth Amendment provides that all citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law. Thus, legal defenses are available to a sobriety checkpoint.
If you or a loved one were stopped at one of Orange County’s notorious field sobriety check points, call Coffey and Coffey. Schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys and let us start defending your case today. Call (800) 706-7888.