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What rights do passengers have at a DUI checkpoint?


The rights of a passenger at any traffic stop are somewhat independent of the rights of the driver. At a DUI checkpoint, these rights shift somewhat, along with the driver's rights, because a DUI checkpoint is considered a non-discriminatory traffic stop.

DUI checkpoint distinctions
When a police officer pulls a car over, it typically involves cause. Whether a vehicle is swerving, has a light out, is speeding or violates some other traffic or motor vehicle law, the officer must have reason to question a driver. When it comes to a DUI checkpoint, this is not the case. At a DUI checkpoint, every car is stopped and every driver is questioned, depending on the volume of cars. In some instances, officers may stop every second or third car in order to keep traffic moving, but the determining inquiry factor is always arbitrary.

If officers suspect that a driver is under the influence, they may ask him to pull over to perform further tests, but questioning of passengers presents some gray areas.

Being a passenger at a DUI checkpoint
As a passenger, you are not the main concern of officers at a DUI checkpoint. Typically, officers question the driver for about 30 seconds. If you, as a passenger, are visibly intoxicated, they have the right to question you as well. Officers can investigate anything that presents a threat to safety, and may include anything in "plain sight" as potential evidence, but the pertinence of evidence gathered from the passenger varies on a case by case basis.

Because DUI checkpoints are non-discriminatory, sometimes the focus of an officer on a passenger rather than the driver can make the check unconstitutional. Constitutionality of these checks has been contested in a number of cases, but their relevance and use is usually upheld because the safety benefits so greatly outweigh any invasion of privacy.

Right to privacy
Some court cases have challenged the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints, with plaintiff's claiming that the practices violate the 4th amendment. In most cases, judges ruled that the safety provided by the checkpoints outweighed the invasion of privacy, which the courts said was brief and not particularly intrusive.

One important distinction to make is that in non-discriminatory stops, officers can request information like identification, but you are not required to provide it without due cause. Several court cases involving officers asking passengers for identification have found that while officers have a right to request a identification or search, passengers have a right to refuse, and refusal is not grounds for arrest or detainment.


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