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D.C. DUI Checkpoints: Public Relations in High Gear as Holidays Approach

by | Oct 3, 2011

A police supervisor on the other coast admitted recently at a Beverly Hills council meeting that DUI checkpoint arrests have nothing to do with arresting drunk drivers and everything to do with public relations.

D.C. DUI defense lawyers understand that law enforcement roadblocks have not been a viable law enforcement tool in a long time.

“The main objective of the checkpoint is not to arrest drunk drivers,” said Lt. Mark Rosen. “The real objective … is to bring DUI driving to the forefront of people’s thought process.”

We’re not sure what prompted the frankness. We suspect it’s budget time and Rosen was attempting to defend the process. Certainly the arrest and manpower statistics are not going to come to his defense.

According to the report in the Beverly Hills Patch:

A DUI checkpoint costs $10,000 to staff and operate with as many as 30 officers.

-The department conducts about 7 checkpoints a year.

-More than 2,200 vehicles pass through a checkpoint — about one-fourth are selected for additional screening.

-An average of 3 drivers are given field sobriety tests.

-An average of just one drunk driving arrest is made per checkpoint.

Thirty officers and $10,000 to make one drunk driving arrest cannot be spun to make it sound as though DUI checkpoints are a reasonable use of law enforcement resources. Each year, more than 200,000 drivers are charged with drunk driving in California, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

D.C. joins most other states in permitting DUI checkpoints under federal law. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, police can conduct roadblocks once or twice a month. In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court found in Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz that checkpoints do not violate a person’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. However, police must follow strict guidelines. In general, there are even more grounds to challenge a checkpoint arrest and an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer should always be consulted.

Whatever marginal value checkpoints may have once had has been negated by smartphones, twitter, Facebook and other electronic media. Today, even cell phone apps can tell you where a checkpoint is operating. Marginal or unfair arrests typically result.

But they pay overtime. And they permit department’s to appear proactive. So be aware and know your rights as we head into the holiday season as law enforcement will be out in force.


If you are facing drunk driving arrest 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.