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How Effective are California DUI Checkpoints?

Posted by Troy Slaten | Dec 06, 2013 | 0 Comments

Police often tout check points as a great and effective way of enforcing DUI. But a recent opinion article questions the fairness of it. The author begins by talking about the distraction levels associated with DUI as well as those of performing other tasks in a vehicle such as eating, having a conversation on the phone or texting.  What is interesting is that some DUI drivers may actually have a faster reaction time than someone sending a text message. Yet checkpoints make it very easy for drivers distracted by other influences to avoid being seen by police. According to the article, researchers in the UK performed a study testing reaction times of various activities performed while driving and found they are lowered by the following percentages:

  • Hands-free mobile phone conversations: 26.5%
  • Eating: 44%
  • Texting: 37.4%
  • Having a BAC of .08%: 12.5%

Then there is the research that shows that sobriety checkpoints are not effective at actually catching DUI drivers. A newspaper investigation in Arizona found that out of 46,000 drivers stopped by police between 2005 and 2007, there were only 75 cases resulted in conviction. Another study done in Maryland that studied DUI enforcement techniques found that:

there is no evidence to indicate that this campaign, which involves a number of sobriety checkpoints and media activities to promote these efforts, has had any impact on public perceptions, driver behaviors, or alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and injuries.

Many police officers justify checkpoint by saying that they're not set up to actually catch DUI drivers but rather to send a message to drivers that police are out to enforce DUI. Unfortunately this is a very expensive way to make a statement. The state of California spends about 12 million dollars on DUI sobriety checkpoints annually. A single checkpoint can cost $8000 to $10,000 to set up and perform.

Checkpoints are illegal in some states because they are believed to violate state constitutions. They are currently legal in California and are utilized quite often by police. Even though they are expensive and may even be an unfair way of enforcing traffic laws because they are bias against DUI drivers, they are not likely to be outlawed any time soon. Despite all of this evidence against them, a driver who is stopped at a checkpoint and arrested for suspicion of DUI will not be able to argue that the stop was unlawful.

About the Author

Troy Slaten

Troy Slaten is the managing attorney for Floyd, Skeren & Kelly's Criminal Defense practice. He graduated with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He then went on to earn his law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law.

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