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Are There Too Many Holiday Checkpoints And Saturation

Dale Gribow Feb. 19, 2015

On Saturday Dec 5, 2015 I attended an opening party on El Paseo and several groups were sharing information on all the DUI checkpoints they encountered getting to the party. They felt there were more DUI saturation patrols and checkpoints than ever before and they are probably correct.

This rise is necessitated because we have more DUI fatalities in the CV than anywhere else in California...per capita. We should expect more of both because of the increase in holiday and football bowl game parties in the next 30 days.

We all know about checkpoints, which like saturation patrols have to meet the proper lawful and constitutional protocols to succeed. The idea behind a saturation patrol is that a large number of law enforcement officers will "make their presence known" by conducting stops, targeting inebriated, distracted, aggressive and speeding drivers, as well as those with seatbelt or cell phone violations....the whole nine yards of traffic violations.

With a checkpoint, there is no need for an officer to have probable cause to stop you... as is usually the case. Normally an officer must have a reason to pull you over. At a sobriety checkpoint anybody can be stopped and requested to take a breath test. However, this does not mean that if you have failed a breath test or a sobriety test at a checkpoint, all your rights have been compromised. There are procedures and guidelines that all officers at a checkpoint must follow for a DUI test to be held valid.

Nationally officers frequently over-charge and over-arrest people because of their incentivizations. These can include, but are not limited, to promotions, pay increases, vacation schedule priority, etc. based upon their sheer number of arrests and tickets issued. The 4th, 5th and 6th Amendment rights are frequently violated in the process. This is even though the local courts and Supreme Court of the United States case law approves the concept.

Likewise the District Attorney, when given the arrest report by the arresting officer, makes a decision on how to file the case. They too often "over file" or "over charge" to gain leverage for a future plea. By doing so it makes it easier for the courtroom DA to extract a defendant's plea... to something.

When arrested for a DUI two separate charges are automatically filed.... Driving under the influence and driving with a blood level of .08 or higher. In the Indio court they even file on a .07 chemical test, even though the law uses a .08. Jail time is demanded on all first offense DUI's, unlike most courts in California.

When stopped the impaired driver usually makes many mistakes. They are not aware, unless they read my weekly legal columns, that the field sobriety and breath test at the scene are optional. Thus you do not have to take the walk the line, finger to nose, alphabet and other sobriety tests. Likewise the breath test at the scene (unless you are on probation) is optional.

A driver stopped and offered DUI tests should be cooperative and politely say that their attorney is Fleeceum, Cheatum and Gougeum and they have advised the driver not to talk without calling their lawyer for permission. That way you remain the Good Guy and the Lawyer is the Fall Guy.

The potential defendant should explain "they understand Field Sobriety and Breath Tests at the scene are optional. If that is correct Mr. Officer, then I elect not to take them. Then explain that they are happy to cooperate with law enforcement and take a blood test."

By following this advice the challenges with checkpoints and saturation patrols will be minimized.