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Drunk Driving Sobriety Checkpoints

Confronted with a DUI case involving a roadblock/checkpoint, California DUI lawyers must consider the adequacy of the procedures employed: Was the roadblock conducted in a constitutionally permissible manner? Even Chief Justice Relinqtnst implicitly acknowledged that there Must exist "guidelines'' concerning such matters as location, publicity, and roadblock operation. Note that in Sitz the roadblock was set up only after a ''Sobriety Checkpoint Advisory Committee'' had been appointed to establish guidelines; this committee consisted of representatives of the stale police, local police, prosecutors, and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

But what are the "guidelines"? Rehnquist's opinion in Sitz leaves the question of minimal adequacy of such standards unanswered, presumably to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Counsel may find some guidance in the decisions of sister states. In one of the most influential of these pre-Sitz cases, the California Supreme Court set forth what it felt to be the procedural safe-guards required for a DUI roadblock to comply with Fourth Amendment requirements. Ingersoll v. Palmer, 743 P.2d 1299 (Cal. 1987).

In the absence of guidelines from the U.S. Supreme Court in Sitz, counsel may wish to look to an alternative federal source in arguing the constitutional invalidity of a given checkpoint or roadblock. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published a report that reviews recommended procedures for drinking/driving roadblocks. See The Use of Safety Checkpoints for DWI Enforcement, DOT  HS-806-476 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, September 1983). The report reviews legal issues relating to roadblocks (“safety checkpoints'') and suggests guidelines for their use in drunk driving law enforcement. Ten suggestions are made to help ensure that safety checkpoints are used legally, effectively and safely'':