The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, of course, but they can also be a nerve-wracking time for California drivers. This year, as the California Highway Patrol has put in place for the past several years, the holidays come with multiple maximum enforcement periods. On heavy travel days near major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, you have probably seen highway patrol officers come out in force to maintain safety on the road – and keep an eye out for any impaired drivers.

One of the most common methods the CHP uses to check for drivers under the influence is DUI checkpoints in certain busy areas. Over major holidays, you likely have to go through at least one of these checkpoints driving through the San Gabriel Valley. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, CHP officers identified over 300 DUI arrests. 54 of those arrests occurred in the Los Angeles area.

Are DUI Checkpoints legal?

In most cases, police or other authorities must see “evidence of wrongdoing” before stopping you on California roads. At a DUI checkpoint, however, every driver must pull over regardless of driving activity.

Given the hefty consequences of a DUI in California, it is understandable that many drivers get nervous at a checkpoint. In California, unlike neighboring states Oregon and Washington, this practice is legal. You must stop at a DUI checkpoint and show your driver’s license and proof of registration if the officer requests them.

Can CHP search your car at a DUI checkpoint?

Most likely, it would not be appropriate for a CHP officer to search a car at a DUI checkpoint. The officer may look into the car windows, including the passenger seats. But even if the car is already stopped, the officer must see evidence of another crime to open the car doors and search your car.

Know your rights at a DUI checkpoint. You can ask the officer if you are free to leave if she or he seems to be scrutinizing your car.