California Vehicle Code § 2814.2 VC requires all drivers to stop when going through a sobriety checkpoint in order to submit to a DUI inspection. If your only violation is driving without a license, the police will not impound your vehicle as long as you have the permission of the vehicle’s registered owner to drive it.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
2814.2. (a) A driver of a motor vehicle shall stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint inspection conducted by a law enforcement agency when signs and displays are posted requiring that stop.
(b) Notwithstanding Section 14602.6 or 14607.6, a peace officer or any other authorized person shall not cause the impoundment of a vehicle at a sobriety checkpoint if the driver’s only offense is a violation of Section 12500.
(c) During the conduct of a sobriety checkpoint, if the law enforcement officer encounters a driver who is in violation of Section 12500, the law enforcement officer shall make a reasonable attempt to identify the registered owner of the vehicle. If the registered owner is present, or the officer is able to identify the registered owner and obtain the registered owner’s authorization to release the motor vehicle to a licensed driver by the end of the checkpoint, the vehicle shall be released to either the registered owner of the vehicle if he or she is a licensed driver or to the licensed driver authorized by the registered owner of the vehicle. If a notice to appear is issued, the name and driver’s license number of the licensed driver to whom the vehicle was released pursuant to this subdivision shall be listed on the officer’s copy of the notice to appear issued to the unlicensed driver. When a vehicle cannot be released, the vehicle shall be removed pursuant to subdivision (p) of Section 22651, whether a notice to appear has been issued or not.
California Vehicle Code 2814.2 VC requires you to stop your vehicle at any DUI checkpoint which:
- is being conducted by the police; and
- has posted signs and displays informing motorists to stop.
Once you have stopped, you also have to submit to a DUI inspection. This typically involves rolling down your window and answering the police’s questions, such as “Have you been drinking?” and “Can I see your license?”
If you appear sober, the police will permit you to continue driving. Though if the police smell alcohol or marijuana or believe that you are impaired, you may be asked to exit the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. These include:
You may also be asked to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). Note that all these tests are optional. If the police decide to arrest you for driving under the influence, your car may be impounded.
Example: Jed stops his sedan at a DUI checkpoint in Los Angeles. The police smell marijuana, so they ask Jed to perform the field sobriety tests. When Jed fails the tests, they arrest him and impound his vehicle.
Note that if the police do not suspect you of DUI – but you lack a current and valid driver’s license – the police will impound your vehicle only if:
- you are not the registered owner, and
- you lack permission to drive the car from the registered owner.1
See our related article, Do they impound your car after a DUI?
- California Vehicle Code 2814.2 VC – Sobriety checkpoint inspection; Impoundment of vehicle; Duties of law enforcement officer. See also Demarest v. City of Vallejo (9th Cir., 2022) 44 F.4th 1209; Mateos-Sandoval v. County of Sonoma (Northern Dist. Cal., 2013) 942 F. Supp. 2d 890. See also VC 23612.