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D.C. DUI Checkpoints Are Ineffective, Costly

by | Apr 3, 2012

DUI defense attorneys in Washington D.C. have long believed that sobriety checkpoints are not only a waste of time, they are ineffective and a drain on taxpayer dollars as well.Now, weighing in on the argument regarding their ineffectiveness at curbing Washington D.C. DUIs is the managing director of the American Beverage Institute, based in Washington D.C.

In an editorial that was published in newspapers across the country, institute Director Sarah Longwell was firing off particularly at the checkpoints slated just prior to Mardi Gras, though the St. Patrick’s Day checkpoints – and really those any other time of year – were also a focus.

Multi-agency sobriety checkpoints around major holidays are given a great deal of press, Longwell pointed out, but do little to actually address the problem of dangerous drivers.

Repeated studies, she said, have shown that states are far better off without them. Take California, as an example. Throughout the duration of 2009, more than 1 million vehicles winded their way through about 1,500 sobriety checkpoints across the state. Of all of those stops, only about one-third of 1 percent were actually collared for drunk driving offenses.

Look at Pennsylvania in 2007. There, of the more than 180,000 drivers who were stopped in sobriety checkpoints, less than 1 percent were actually arrested.

What’s more, there have been legal issues that have arisen surrounding the checkpoints, leading Connecticut and Utah to consider joining the 12 other states that don’t conduct checkpoints at all. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, of those 12 states, five of them are forbidden outright by state law or there has been an interpretation of the state law that prohibits them. In five other states, checkpoints have been determined to be illegal under the state’s constitution. In Texas, legislators there have decided checkpoints are unconstitutional, based on their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. In Alaska, the state doesn’t have the authority to conduct checkpoints.

Washington D.C., unfortunately, is in the company of 38 states that regularly conduct sobriety checkpoints. GHSA estimates that on average, there is a checkpoint held here about once or twice a month.

Now, let’s talk cost. A simple patrol is going to cost about $300, given an officer’s salary, gas, etc. Checkpoints, on the other hand, are going to run about $10,000 each time they are set up. Given the low rate at which individuals are even arrested, you have to ask what’s the point?

The other issue Longwell raises is that checkpoints are generally so visible that they are easy to avoid – especially when agencies announce ahead of time exactly when and approximately where they intend to set up the operation.

And finally, and perhaps most pointedly, Longwell assets that it has been proven that other poor driving habits – such as texting, speeding and driving while sleep-deprived – are more dangerous than driving with a blood alcohol content that is at 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit. However, checkpoints aren’t going to do anything to catch these offenders because officers aren’t able to see these offenders in action when they’re stopped at a checkpoint.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights or fill out our online contact form. Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards accepted. Call 202-765-3175.