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If you encounter a sobriety checkpoint, can you turn around? 

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2023 | DUI

Even though they are controversial, sobriety checkpoints are legal in California. At these checkpoints, police officers can ask drivers for their identification and may ask them to pull to the side if they believe the driver is impaired. This is different than a normal drunk driving traffic stop, which has to start with reasonable suspicion.

As such, you may have no desire to go through a sobriety checkpoint. You would rather not interact with the authorities, even though you are sober. If you see this type of checkpoint ahead of you, could you just turn around and drive away? Or could you turn before the checkpoint and head down a side street?

Only if you can do so legally

Many drivers think that they cannot do this, perhaps even believing that the police will see them turn around and assume that they are impaired.

But the police cannot make this assumption. Drivers are allowed to turn down side streets or even turn around and go in the other direction. This doesn’t mean that they are impaired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

But the key is that you cannot make any driving mistakes when you turn around. For instance, if you make an illegal U-turn so that you can begin heading in the other direction, the police could absolutely pull you over for the U-turn. They would then be very likely to administer field sobriety tests or breath tests. If there is no legal way to avoid the checkpoint, then you may have to proceed through it.

Your defense options

Are you facing allegations of impaired driving? Whether it happened after a traffic stop or a checkpoint, be sure you understand your legal defense options.