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D.C. Restaurants: No Checkpoints, Please

by | Sep 5, 2012

Washington D.C. was among 10,000 other communities that participated in DUI crackdowns earlier this month during Labor Day weekend.

Those efforts include saturation patrols, overtime for officers – and sobriety checkpoints.

Now, D.C. DUI lawyers understand that a Washington D.C. restaurant trade group is pleading with law enforcement agencies to curb this outdated – and ineffective – practice.

The U.S. Supreme Court approved the use of sobriety checkpoints back in 1990 in a 6-3 split decision.

The problem is that they aren’t effective at combating the problem, according to the American Beverage Institute. What’s more, when they aren’t conducted exactly according to the law, the DUI cases may get tossed anyway.

That’s what recently happened in Florida, after officers were caught on videotape not randomly selecting vehicles for a stop, per their required operation plans.

But even when they are conducted properly, they aren’t making roadways any safer.

That’s because first of all, the operations target moderate drinkers, according to ABI’s managing director. However, research has proven that hardcore, alcohol abusers and alcoholics are the ones who are most likely to be involved in a crash – particularly in a fatal crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association recently reported that 70 percent of alcohol-related crashes involved at least one driver who had a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher – nearly twice the legal limit.

Secondly, checkpoints might nab drivers who have had a glass of wine with dinner, but they aren’t going to catch distracted drivers, drowsy drivers, reckless drivers or speeding drivers. The ABI contends that saturated and roving patrols are far more effective in terms of targeting dangerous drivers.

Thirdly, these operations are extremely expensive, they don’t yield enough results and it’s a great inconvenience to too many innocent people.

ABI spokeswoman Sarah Longwell says that responsible drinkers can safely and legally indulge in a beer at a baseball game or a glass of sangria at an end-of-summer party. However, they are less inclined to do so if they know police are going to be conducting sobriety checkpoints.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association reports that while there are 12 states that don’t conduct sobriety checkpoints, D.C. isn’t among those jurisdictions. In fact, law enforcement officers here in the District hold them as often as twice a month – sometimes more, depending on if there is some special enforcement push.

While some police departments may be taking the research to heart (Miami police traded checkpoints for increased patrols on Labor Day weekend), D.C. law enforcement agencies aren’t likely to do this anytime soon. With that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind if you have been drinking and are pulled over at a sobriety checkpoint:

  • Remain calm. Panicking will not help the situation.
  • Get your paperwork ready as you are pulling into the lane where checks are being conducted.
  • Be polite, be courteous.
  • Remember your right to remain silent – and use it, especially if you are placed under arrest.

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.