‘Tis the season and for DUI enforcement, that means an increased focus on drunk driving. Last week, Merced began its 20-day “holiday crackdown.” The crackdown involves a list of different types of drunk driving enforcement strategies. While drunk driving is definitely a concern, many of these enforcement strategies allow for even more unlawful and unjustified arrests.
I have devoted my practice to DUI defense and I have seen how these methods have led to innocent people getting arrested. It is unfortunate because the majority of people think that these additional procedures are a good thing and will only help to either deter people from driving under the influence or arrest those that do.
The Merced DUI task force will administer 6 DUI checkpoints over the next couple weeks along with 17 roving DUI saturation patrols. Both of these methods are cause for you to be concerned.
First, DUI checkpoints are a concern because many argue that these checkpoints are administered unlawfully. Under California law, officers are required to stick to an approved formula for stopping cars during a DUI checkpoint. However, it is very difficult to ensure that officers are following this regulation. What would prevent an officer from stopping a vehicle outside of the approved formula? Honestly - not much.
Another problem with DUI checkpoints is that they can be a waste of money. Cities and counties are consistently being given thousands of dollars to be put towards DUI checkpoints - but to what result? One infamous example of this waste of money was a DUI checkpoint administered last June. More than 1,000 drivers were stopped in a Los Angeles suburb - but absolutely no DUI arrests were made! Clearly, the money could have been spent on something more beneficial.
Furthermore, California law enforcement is supposed to have probable cause in order to stop and question a driver, but DUI checkpoints are an exception to this rule. Here, the officer is allowed to stop a driver for absolutely no reason. In this case, the officer will have a conversation with the driver in order to help decide whether the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, something as innocent as having trouble locating your license or registration may lead to a DUI arrest.
Roving DUI saturation patrols will also be used more over the holiday season. While DUI checkpoints are at a fixed location, these roving patrols are able to cover a larger area. Here, the officers will be on the look out for traffic violations in order to have the probable cause needed to stop and question the driver. While the officer is required to have probable cause to stop the driver, there is no law prohibiting him from using a simple traffic violation (failure to signal) in order to subsequently arrest the driver for DUI.
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint or a roving patrol, all is not lost! Not every DUI arrest leads to a conviction!