Category Archives: Sobriety Checkpoints
A few days ago I posted a news story about MADD assisting police at DUI "sobriety checkpoints". What I didn’t realize is that MADD apparently goes even further — setting up their own roadblocks! The following news story from a couple of years ago reports on one such roadblock:
CLINTON PROSECUTOR AT ODDS WITH MADD
A prosecutor in Clinton, Tennessee, says the president of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been irresponsible.
Anderson County District Attorney General Jim Ramsey said a MADD roadblock June 28th caused a two-vehicle accident.
Further, he said the MADD chapter has interfered in criminal cases and been involved in publicity stunts.
MADD chapter president Susan Ford said the group stays within the policies and guidelines of the organization. She said she feels like the group has community support.
Presumably, MADD is not authorized to stop vehicles on the highways — in which case, why aren’t any of the mad mothers arrested and prosecuted? They clearly pose a threat to public safety (and just as clearly are politically very powerful).
(Thanks to Jeanne Pruett, President of Responsibility in DUI Laws, Inc.)
From today’s news:
DOVER- The sixth week of Delaware’s "Checkpoint Strikeforce" campaign resulted in 22 arrests for DUI charges as well as the arrest of one man who is accused of trying to run down two volunteers from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
According to police reports, the driver refused to obey several police commands to stop the vehicle and roll down his window. According to the police, the driver then tried to flee the checkpoint and in the process nearly ran over two members of Delaware’s MADD chapter who were assisting police at the checkpoint…..
I hope the two MADD mothers weren’t too frightened, but what I really want to know is: When did MADD start "assisting" police administer DUI roadblocks?
(Thanks to Donald Ramsell of Wheaton, Illinois.)
In recent days I've talked about how DUI roadblocks (or to use the more politically correct term, "sobriety checkpoints") are ineffective and violate the Fourth Amendment but have nevertheless been authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court because the intrusion on citizens' privacy was outweighed by the "grave and legitimate interest in curbing drunken driving". And I pointed out that, inevitably, law enforcement was increasingly abusing the procedure to gather information about citizens, conduct dragnets for non-DUI offenses and raise money for local government.
In the following news story about a weekend "sobriety checkpoint" in North Carolina, notice the emphasis in the opening paragraph on the minimal arrests for DUI — and the real objective as evidenced by the list of total arrests in the last paragraph:
Area law enforcement officers levied charges against drunk driving suspects Friday at a checkpoint at the intersection of North Raleigh Street and Meadowbrook Road.
Rocky Mount police said two vehicles were seized from drivers charged at the checkpoint during a joint effort with area law enforcement agencies….
Arrests resulting from the checkpoint included the following charges: Driving while intoxicated, three; alcoholic beverage control violations, three; driving while license revoked, four; no operator's license, five; fail to carry license, three; seat belt violation, one; expired license plate, three; no insurance, one; unauthorized use of motor vehicle, one; misdemeanor possession of marijuana, one; possession with intent to sell/deliver marijuana (felony), one; felony maintain a vehicle, one; child restraint violation, six; inspection violation, three; careless and reckless driving, two; felony elude, two; fail to stop for lights and siren, one; outstanding warrants, three; commercial motor vehicle regulatory violation, two; resist, obstruct and delay, two.
(Thanks again to Jeanne Pruett.)
In recent posts, I’ve talked about how DUI roadblocks were ineffective and were increasingly being abused for such purposes as gathering information on citizens. According to a KCRA-TV news story yesterday from Sacramento, DUI roadblocks are now being used mainly to make money for local government:
KCRA Investigates: DUI Checkpoints
Checkpoints Being Used To Enforce Other Laws
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For years, DUI checkpoints have proven an effective way to catch drunken drivers and prevent others from getting behind the wheel, but what some police agencies are now using those checkpoints for and who is being targeted is sparking a growing controversy. The concern is that police are not only using the checkpoints as a way to enforce other laws but also as a way to make money — especially since cities such as Sacramento make $70 every time they impound a car at a DUI checkpoint, even if that car’s driver was not suspected of drinking and driving.
Aturo Torres said he was pulled over at a recent DUI checkpoint on Broadway in Sacramento, his pickup truck was impounded and all of his belongings moved to the curb, and yet, Torres said, he had not had a single drop of alcohol to drink that night.
KCRA 3 Investigates found that what happened to Torres is becoming so common that a growing number of lawmakers and immigrant rights groups are up in arms.
At issue is whether police agencies are misusing taxpayer money by using state DUI grant money as an opportunity to crack down on a host of other laws…. "It’s misrepresentation. It’s almost a fraudulent use of resources," state Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, said.
KCRA 3 Investigates found that some DUI checkpoints are becoming so large in scale that they involve dozens of officers cracking down on everything from felonies to driving without a license.
Records show that at the Sacramento Police Department’s last five DUI checkpoints, officers arrested 22 suspected drunken drivers. But they also wrote 315 citations and impounded 259 vehicles belonging to people arrested for driving without a license or driving on a suspended license…. Sacramento’s police chief defends the use of DUI checkpoints beyond the bounds of just cracking down on suspected drunken drivers….
Adding another layer of controversy is that many of those caught in DUI checkpoints are undocumented immigrants. Immigrant rights groups say current law does not allow these people the chance to get a license legally and many can’t afford to pay the $1,000 it takes when police impound their cars for not having a license.
Just a reminder: the United States Supreme Court recognized that DUI roadblocks constituted a stop and search without probable cause, in apparent violation of the Fourth Amendment. However, the Court chose to permit the practice — but only because the intrusion on citizens’ privacy was outweighed by the "grave and legitimate interest in curbing drunken driving".
In a number of previous posts I’ve discussed the dubious efficacy, statistics and constitutionality of DUI roadblocks, aka "sobriety checkpoints". However, I’ve only briefly mentioned the potential for abusing the right to set up these roadblocks — the potential for government to use them as a pretext to violate citizen’s rights. Consider the following story from yesterday’s Washington Post:
Safety Stops Draw Doubts
D.C. Police Gather Nonviolators’ Data
Lisa Davis had done nothing wrong. She was wearing a seat belt, was obeying the speed limit and produced a valid driver’s license when D.C. police pulled her over one recent night at a traffic safety checkpoint in a crime-plagued neighborhood.
Even so, an officer jotted down some basic information before letting her go, including her name, address and the time and location of the stop for a police database used for crime solving.
"I’ve got some serious constitutional issues with that," Davis said as she sat in her idling Acura at the checkpoint at Kansas Avenue and Shepherd Street NW in the Petworth neighborhood. "I feel like it’s a violation of my rights. It’s a slippery slope to Big Brother."
The details about Davis and the stop will be fed into the database, which is linked to a computer that includes arrest records and mug shots of criminals….
Civil liberties advocates aren’t the only ones questioning the practice. The policy is sparking concern among some officers who conduct the checkpoint stops, most of which are made in areas where crime, not traffic safety, is the primary concern.
"That’s an invasion of privacy, demanding information from a citizen and putting that in a database," said Officer Gregory I. Green of D.C. police, who is assigned to represent the police union….
The officers jot down motorists’ information on a file-card-size form called a PD-76, which is recorded into the database. The forms also are used for routine traffic stops, and the information will also be used for a racial profiling study, (D.C. Police Chief Charles) Ramsey said.
D.C. homicide Detective Paul Regan said the collection of such data has been "a great intelligence tool".
In the 6-3 United States Supreme Court case holding that DUI checkpoints were permissible, Justice Rehnquist admitted that the stops constituted "seizures" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. However, he said, this was justified because "No one can seriously dispute the magnitude of the drunken driving problem or the States’ interest in eradicating it."
Would the Court would have ruled as it did had the justices known what these supposed "sobriety checkpoints" would eventually become?
(Thanks to Steve Oberman of Knoxville, TN.)