Simply put, if you pull up to a California DUI checkpoint, yes you must stop. This is an exception to the rule that officers generally need probable cause that you did something wrong before forcing you to stop.
However, you don’t necessarily need to pull up to the checkpoint.
First off, there are ways to avoid checkpoints from the get-go. Many times, the locations of checkpoints are published and can be found on the web social media sites:
Second, if you’re unaware of the locations before getting into your vehicle, the California Supreme Court in the case of Ingersoll v. Palmer said that California DUI checkpoints must be visible to oncoming motorist. This gives motorists the opportunity to turn away from the checkpoint prior to pulling up to it.
Yes, it is legal to turn away from a checkpoint.
However, if you’re going to turn away from the checkpoint, be sure you do it legally. You can bet that there will be law enforcement officers waiting idly by for an oncoming motorist to break a traffic violation in turning away from the checkpoint.
That minor traffic violation gives law enforcement the probable cause needed to stop you, not on suspicion of driving under the influence, but because they violated a traffic law. But once they stop you, it opens the door to allow the officers to observe other indicators, whether true or not, that you may be driving under the influence.
In short, avoid the checkpoint if you can before you get in your vehicle or by turning away legally. If you can’t and you pull up to the checkpoint, you must stop.