Placentia DUI Checkpoint ends in disaster.
A Placentia DUI Checkpoint resulted in tragedy. The City of Placentia’s Police Department had a DUI checkpoint on Friday April 17th, that ended up in disaster. Going, according to some reports, over 100 miles per hour through the checkpoint, a 44 year old woman fled from the DUI checkpoint and led officers on a chase that ended when she flipped her car over construction equipment.
The checkpoint was in the 300 block of East Orangethorpe Avenue in Placentia. The driver ran a stoplight at Kramer Boulevard, and continued to speed up, until she collided with temporary railings blocking off Orangethorpe Avenue at Thames Street in Anaheim for construction underway there. The vehicle launched over a bulldozer that was parked along the curb and landed on its roof, pinned between a block wall and the bulldozer.
Orange County Fire Authority and Anaheim Fire had to pull the driver from the vehicle. She was transported to UC Irvine Medical Center and the woman is in critical condition, with a DUI and a crash investigation still pending.
The data over several years of Orange County DUI Checkpoints seem to indicate that DUI checkpoints are a bad idea, and are not effective.
In evaluating whether or not a DUI checkpoint is legal, DUI caselaw requires that procedures be followed, and public safety is generally a concern. Courts generally require that there be procedures utilized that don’t leave discretion to the officer at the checkpoint. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. at 662, 99 S.Ct. 1391. The Louisiana Supreme Court decision in State v. Jackson 764 So.2d 64, 72-73, (La., 2000) illustrates the considerations that courts generally employ to determine the validity of sobriety checkpoints. Those are as follows:
- The location, time and duration of a checkpoint, and other regulations for operation of the checkpoint should be established (preferably in written form) by supervisors or other administrative personnel rather than the field officers implementing the checkpoint;
- Advance warning to the approaching motorist with signs, flares and other indications to warn of the impending stop in a safe manner and to provide notice of its official nature as a police checkpoint;
- Detention of the motorist for a minimal length of time; and
- Use of systematic non-random criteria for stopping motorists.
Under the California DUI case law of the Ingersoll case here in California, it’s required that police give notice of a checkpoint. In fact, you’ve probably seen headlines in your local paper or have read a tweet from the police department warning residents of an upcoming sobriety checkpoint, disclosing precisely when and where the screening will take place. DUI Specific Apps exist for that purpose. Press releases from Police Agencies exist to let people know about it. Those that plan ahead and are the most dangerous serial drunk drivers, or alcoholics, are the least likely to be caught in a DUI checkpoint for that reason.
DUI Checkpoints are not favored by police
Some officers also feel that sobriety checkpoint duty result in few arrests and aren’t very productive. See: http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=637&issue_id=72005
Law enforcement press releases constantly state that the main goal of DUI checkpoints is just awareness, not public safety or arrests. Awareness can be accomplished by other means, and MADD in particular does a good job of awareness. Not many people do not know that driving under the influence is illegal. There have been many high-profile DUI awareness campaigns over the years sponsored by government media action. Everyone is familiar with the phrase “don’t drink and drive.” These less expensive, less constitutionally-intrusive public awareness campaigns make more sense than DUI checkpoints — if awareness is the goal.