The San Diego Police Department has issued one of their frequent press releases regarding a DUI checkpoint. This Memorial Day Weekend checkpoint is like many holiday checkpoints aimed at catching unsuspecting drivers. You can see the press release here: DUI SAN DIEGO CHECKPOINT ALERT
This Friday, May 27, 2016, San Diego Police Department will set up a DUI checkpoint somewhere in the San Diego area between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. If the vague nature of the press release is frustrating and confusing, that is intentional. These checkpoints while being unconstitutional are still conducted by law enforcement and for now, continue to be upheld by court decisions. The leading case on DUI checkpoints is Ingersoll v. Palmer. It provides guidelines on exactly how the police are to conduct DUI checkpoints. Among the requirements is that notice of the checkpoint location be made public for any potential drivers in the area.
However, the San Diego Police go one step further and do not even comply with current California laws regarding public information and advanced notice about the locations of these unlawful checkpoints. Case law gives clear instructions to police that they must give the public notice of the precise location where a checkpoint is going to be setup. As the press release makes clear, the Police will not give an indication of where they are going to be stopping vehicles.
As a DUI Lawyer, I feel that having checkpoints of any kind to stop and interrogate drivers who have committed no wrong act is a disgrace to our constitution. However, every citizen and resident of this country should also be shocked by the lack of respect that police have for the most vital freedoms we have. Our laws and constitution specifically prohibit the police from searching us at random and seizing our property without due process or cause. However, checkpoints such as this, which are intended to look for drunk drivers, do far more than protect the public. They invade the public without prior notice, cause, or suspicion. These checkpoints do not ring true to the most basic tenets of constitutional law. The State with its infinite power to control and detain must exercise restraint and explanation for its actions before infringing on the liberties of the people.
Checkpoints belong in movies about the Cold War and John Le Carre novels, not on the open streets of our cities.