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In our previous blog, we discussed the correlation between the holidays and a rise in DUI arrests. Over the years, Arizona law enforcement continues to crack down on drunk driving by setting up roadblocks all over the state, specifically around the Phoenix and Tempe area.
Despite the time of the year, DUI checkpoints are fairly common in Arizona, they just tend to pick up around the holidays. This means that you can expect to see more roadblocks as the year winds into Christmas and New Years.
Getting stopped at a DUI checkpoint can be incredibly stressful, whether you’re under the influence of alcohol or not. While we’ve lightly touched on DUI checkpoints in the past, the attorneys at The Weingart Firm would like to delve deeper to give you a better understanding of Arizona DUI checkpoints.
In Arizona, there are frequent DUI roadblocks to crack down on drunk driving. The state of Arizona doesn’t take DUIs lightly. In fact, there is even a statewide DUI task force at peak times throughout the year.
The claim is that these checkpoints save lives and money. Typically, checkpoints are temporary and chosen in random locations. According to Arizona Public Safety, the roadblocks have the potential to reduce alcohol-related fatalities by 15% and save the state approximately $62,000 per checkpoint. Although, there is no sufficient data to back these claims.
There are a lot of people who don’t mind the DUI checkpoints, saying that they shouldn’t matter if you’re not drinking, especially under the pretenses that they save lives and money. But when we look at DUI checkpoints are they really being performed to catch drunk drivers, or are they being used as convenient ways to take money from us? Which leads me to my next question, are DUI checkpoints truly constitutional?
Under the fourth amendment, the constitution tells us that law enforcement needs a reason to search and seize us or our belongings. There’s no doubting that DUI checkpoints are groundless search and seizures. In 1990, the lawfulness of DUI checkpoints was taken to the Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court hit a wall and came to a split decision.
Half of the court ruled that DUI checkpoints fit under the fourth amendment’s description of an “unreasonable seizure.” The other half of the court found that drunk drivers pose serious threats to motorists, making checkpoints a means to protect and serve us.
This split decision left the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints up to the states. In Arizona, the state found that the dangers of drunk driving make roadblocks an exception to the fourth amendment, provided that police announce their checkpoints in advance. I’d contend that the state is violating our constitutional rights every time they force innocent people to undergo these checkpoints. Those people who side with roadblocks say that our rights should be forfeited under the name of protection.
But when are these checkpoints going beyond personal protection? Oftentimes at checkpoints, you’re put under pressure. Most of the time, law enforcement will question your motives, ask you what you’ve been up to, ask you where you’re going, and make you feel like you’ve done something wrong – even if you’re not doing anything wrong.
Snooping in our personal lives without probable cause goes in direct defiance with the constitution. The whole idea of randomly stopping innocent citizens and asking them invasive questions is eerily similar to the Gestapo from communist Germany. Nonetheless, we still have to abide by state law and undergo these checkpoints, no matter our opinion on whether it’s constitutional.
Besides making innocent people feel guilty, they waste the valuable time of many taxpaying citizens. The next two stories I’m about to tell you did not occur in Arizona. (I disclaim this because Arizona enforcement serve our people and do a lot of good for our communities).
I heard one story of a weary traveler, who was detained at a DUI checkpoint, because his eyes were a little bit glazed from driving all night to his grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving. He was about 30 minutes away from his final destination, when enforcement required him to take a sobriety test. He passed with flying colors, and then they reluctantly sent him on his way.
In this case, all that was served was an inconvenience. Not only did this hold up the already bottled up traffic, but it also wasted the valuable time that he could’ve spent with family on his already limited time.
I knew of another person, who was completely sober on her way to buy a new headlight at AutoZone, when she got stopped in a DUI roadblock. She politely answered all of the officer’s questions, explaining that she was on her way to get a new headline at AutoZone.
He apologized, handed her a ticket for her missing taillight and sent her on her way. I understand that he could’ve pulled her over for this, whether it was at a checkpoint or not, but these checkpoints are meant to save lives. One missing headlight that was on its way to being fixed isn’t going to kill anyone. While the fine was minor, cases like these show how these checkpoints can be used with ulterior motives to get money from our citizens.
The CDC claims that these sobriety checkpoints have the potential to prevent 1 out of 10 DUI-related deaths. While this is an incredible statistic, think of the lives that could be saved if the man-power at checkpoints was being used to crack down on other large-scale crimes.
For instance, using those resources to make major busts to catch known criminals in our community or cracking down on the gangs that are known to commit random acts of violence. This way, traffic police can hone in on the drivers who are swerving, not using turn signals, or driving vehemently reckless.
With the cases above in mind, one way you can draw less attention to yourself and get through a checkpoint as stress-free as possible is by making sure your vehicle is in legal shape. Keep your registration updated and avoid dark window tints, loud exhaust pipes, cracked windows, or broken mirrors. These qualities will put crosshairs on your car, making you seem like a wrong-doer to law enforcement.
Another good way of handling DUI checkpoints is by remaining polite, answering questions in a calm manner, and avoiding the urge to become overly talkative. When an officer walks up to your window, keep your hands on your steering wheel. Don’t rifle around your car for your insurance or license. When you’re ransacking your car for documents, the officer might mistake your frenzy for aggression or looking for a weapon. This will cause him to subconsciously go into defense mode and label you as a threat. Wait for the officer to ask you for this information.
If you’ve been drinking, and the officer notices, then tell him you’d like to call your DUI lawyer before submitting a blood or breath sample. This way, you can get all of the facts to your attorney as they’re occurring. An experienced DUI defense attorney like Mark Weingart and the attorneys at the Weingart Firm will be able to guide you through the process, contest the constitutionality of your arrest and get your charges dropped.
Whatever you do, don’t try to plead guilty in hopes of a reduced offense. Arizona forbids plea bargains for reckless driving while intoxicated. However, in some cases, an attorney in Arizona can help you get your charges reduced with a guilty plea.