Effectiveness of Sobriety Checkpoints

Briana Purifoy Effectiveness of Sobriety Checkpoints Special Problems in Criminal Justice Dr. Stone December 1, 2010 Abstract A good theoretical basis exists for believing that properly conducted sobriety checkpoints and campaigns, may reduce drunk driving, and data from multiple checkpoint programs support this belief. The courts have upheld the constitutionality of checkpoints, opposing those who believe them to violate the fourth amendment. Each year, more deaths result for alcohol-related automobile accidents than any other cause.Sobriety checkpoints, along with media coverage and cooperation from multiple groups, are a necessity to reduce the amount of drunk driving in America. Introduction For many years, the law enforcement community has attempted to detect impaired drivers through numerous innovative efforts and measures.

The problem of driving under the influence (DUI) is well known throughout society, yet, even with all of the strategies used to remove these drivers from U. S. highways, it continues to cause needless and tragic loss of life each year. When will this end? When will society no longer tolerate drunk driving?Until that time, the law enforcement community must attempt to contain the carnage inflicted upon law-abiding citizens by impaired drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatal injury and the second-leading cause of nonfatal injury in the U. S. Young adults 15 to 24 years old are particularly at risk for motor-vehicle-related injury (Miller, Galbraith, Lawrence, 1998).

Driving under the influence of alcohol is the dominant risk factor for serious highway crashes. General drunk-driving deterrence can be achieved with programs of frequent, highly visible checkpoints.Checkpoints also offer specific deterrence by apprehending drunk drivers. One study estimates that 87% of the drinking drivers apprehended at sobriety checkpoints would not be apprehended otherwise (Miller et al. , 1998). The consequential deaths of drunk driving are not “accidents. ” They are the inevitable results of behavior that can be prevented.

Although there is no one solution to this problem, sobriety checkpoints are an important component of programs that have reduced the incidence of drunken driving and the resulting loss of life.The purpose of this paper is to discuss the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints on drunk driving. It will review the constitutionality of the checkpoints, along with reviewing several studies on checkpoints administered in certain areas or states and their effectiveness on drunk driving and alcohol related accidents. Literature Review Operationalizing Drunk Driving According to national Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, 16,653 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 200, an increase of more than 800 deaths from 1999.This represented the largest percentage increase on record (Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 2002). By some estimates, about two out of every five Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives (Greene, 2003). An analysis conducted on the effects on crashes of DUI-checkpoints indicated that crashes involving alcohol are reduced by 17 percent at a minimum and that all crashes, independent of alcohol involvement, are reduced by about 10 to 15 percent (Erke, Goldenbeld, Vaa, 2009).

Further research has revealed that authorities make 1 arrest for driving under the influence for every 772 episodes of driving within 2 hours of drinking and for every 88 occurrences of driving over the legal limit in the United States (Zador, Krawchuk, Moore, 2000). These tragic statistics dramatically illustrate that driving under the influence is a serious problem. Sobriety checkpoints have the greatest deterrent value of all impaired driving enforcement methods, and the public (87 percent in 2005) supports these measures (Kanable, 2006).Prevalence of Sobriety Checkpoints Sobriety checkpoints have existed for several years and have served as a deterrent to drunk driving across many communities. Although not the most aggressive method of removing impaired drivers from America’s roadways, these checkpoints comprise one piece of public awareness and education relevant to the drinking and driving dilemma. Sobriety checkpoint programs are defined as procedures in which law enforcement officers restrict traffic flow in a designated, specific location so they can check drivers for signs of alcohol impairment.If officers detect any type of incapacitation based upon their observations, they can perform additional testing, such as field sobriety or breath analysis tests (Greene, 2003).

To this end, agencies using checkpoints must have a written policy as a directive for their officers to follow. Agencies normally choose locations for checkpoints from areas that statistically reveal crashes or offenses (Green, 2003). Officers stop vehicles based on traffic flow, staffing, and overall safety. They must stop vehicles in an arbitrary sequence, whether they stop all vehicles or a specified portion of them.Checkpoints offer a visible enforcement method intended to deter potential offenders, as well as to apprehend impaired drivers. Sobriety checkpoints must display warning signs to approaching motorists. Used to deter drinking and driving, sobriety checkpoints are related more directly to educating the public and encouraging designated drivers, rather than actually apprehending impaired drivers.

They offer authorities an educational tool. Education and awareness serve as a significant part of deterrence.Frequent use of checkpoints and aggressive media coverage can create a convincing threat in people’s minds that officers will apprehend impaired drivers, a key to general deterrence. In addition, public opinion polls have indicated that 70 to 80 percent of Americans surveyed favored the increased use of sobriety checkpoints as an effective law enforcement tool to combat impaired driving (MADD, 2002). The average motorist is stopped for a very brief period of time, found to be approximately 30 seconds by the trial court in Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz (Willard, 1990).

Only if there is evidence of intoxication is the motorist given traditional sobriety testing. The goal of sobriety checkpoints is to deter drunk driving by increasing the perceived risk that those who drive under the influence of alcohol will be apprehended. The checkpoint serves as a visible warning not only to drivers who are drunk, but also to those who are sober but might contemplate driving in an impaired state on some other occasion. Programs that include checkpoints prevent drunk driving more effectively than those that rely solely on conventional law-enforcement techniques, such as waiting to bserve erratic behavior (Willard, 1990). The National Commission on Drunk Driving and the U. S. Department of Transportation support the use of sobriety checkpoints because of their demonstrated effectiveness.

Critics of sobriety checkpoints have argued that they are unconstitutional because other methods of combating drunk driving are less intrusive and more efficient. Although these assertions are themselves highly debatable, the Supreme Court has held that such considerations do not provide a basis for finding a violation of the Fourth Amendment.Checkpoints do not involve the sort of unconstrained police discretion that the Court found objectionable in Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U. S. 648 (1979). Because every car or a predetermined ratio is subject to the checkpoint, police cannot stop motorists on an arbitrary or discriminatory basis.

The validity of the checkpoints also can be sustained under the administrative search doctrine developed by the Supreme Court in such cases as New York v. Burger, 483 U. S. 691. Constitutionality of Sobriety Checkpoints In Michigan Department of State Police v.Sitz, The United States Supreme Court held that a Michigan sobriety checkpoint program was consistent with the requirements of the fourth amendment. The Court, applying the balancing test announced in Brown v.

Texas, held that the state had a legitimate interest in preventing drunk driving, the sobriety checkpoint sufficiently advanced the public interest, and the intrusion on individual motorists was slight (The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 1991). Moreover, the Court understated the effectiveness of the sobriety checkpoint program by undervaluing its deterrent effect.The checkpoint’s intrusion on individual liberty is slight and indistinguishable from the intrusion upheld in Martinez-Fuerte. The Supreme Court has indicated that an individual in an automobile is not entitled to the same level of privacy as an individual in the home, according to South Dakota v. Opperman. The Court has held that stopping a vehicle and detaining its occupants is a “seizure” within the meaning of the fourth amendment. Yet, it has also held that a stop and seizure of a moving automobile can be made without a warrant (Almeida-Sanchez v.

United States, 1973). However, the Court noted in United States v.Almeida-Sanchez that roving patrol searches of vehicles required consent or probable cause to be “reasonable” under the fourth amendment. Later, in United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, the Court found permanent checkpoints on major highways near the Mexican border consistent with the fourth amendment, because the permanent checkpoints stopped all vehicles and questioned the occupants in an effort to uncover illegal aliens. Furthermore, when proving the effectiveness of the sobriety checkpoint program, the Michigan Department of State Police did not need to show the checkpoint was the only practical alternative (Michigan Dept. f State Police v.

Sitz, 1990). Accordingly, Justice Stevens inappropriately evaluated the effectiveness of the checkpoint program in comparison to other potential police procedures when he argued that a higher arrest rate could have been achieved through use of more conventional police techniques. Such an approach “violates the principle that such less-restrictive-alternative arguments are inapplicable in the search and seizure context” (The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 1991).In fact, the Supreme Court rejected a less-restrictive-alternative argument in Martinez-Fuerte when it argued that “the logic of such elaborate less-restrictive-alternative arguments could raise insuperable barriers to the exercise of virtually all search and seizure powers. ” The Court’s decision in upholding a sobriety checkpoint program paves the way for law enforcement officials to implement a promising technique for combating drunk driving. Importantly, the court accomplished this task without a radical departure from fourth amendment jurisprudence.Rather, the Court arrived at its decision through a consistent application of the case law on automobile searches and seizures.

The Court correctly applied the balancing test enunciated in Brown and properly held that the equities weighed in favor of upholding the constitutionality of the Michigan sobriety checkpoint program (Blade, 1990). The arrest rate realized in the Michigan program compared favorably with similar “seizures” upheld by the Court. Finally, the Court properly concluded that the subjective intrusion on individual liberty was slight in ight of the substantial drunken driving problem confronting this country, clearing the path for law enforcement officials to combat drunk driving more effectively. Review of Studies A comparative study implemented by Greene (2003) gives statistics compiled by two agencies, similar in size and area of responsibility. They offer an overview of the scope of the DUI problem. In 200, the Missouri State Highway Patrol conducted 58 sobriety checkpoints and arrested 323 drivers for DUI. The Ohio State Highway Patrol carried out 12 sobriety checkpoints and arrested 77 drivers for DUI.

In 2001, Missouri effected 67 sobriety checkpoints and arrested 318 drivers for DUI. Ohio implemented 19 sobriety checkpoints and arrested 126 drivers for DUI. Since 1989, the Ohio State Highway Patrol has participated in 156 sobriety checkpoints and arrested 807 drivers for DUI. Also, from 1994 to 1995, Tennessee, in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, implemented a statewide campaign completing nearly 900 sobriety checkpoints. Law enforcement agencies conducted these in all 95 counties in Tennessee in just over 1 year. The checkpoint programs were highly publicized and conducted basically every week.The evaluation of the program revealed it as highly favorable in reducing the number of alcohol-related fatal crashes.

Basically, Missouri averaged about 5 DUI arrests per checkpoint. Ohio averaged less than 7 DUI arrests per checkpoint, and Tennessee’s aggressive checkpoint program averaged less than 1 arrest per checkpoint. Sobriety checkpoint programs in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Virginia have led to a reduction in alcohol-related crashes (Greene, 2003). In 1995, North Carolina conducted a statewide enforcement and publicity campaign aimed at impaired drivers.The campaign was deemed a success, indicating “drivers with blood alcohol levels at or above 0. 08 percent declined from 198 per 10,000 before the program to 90 per 10,000 after the intensive 3-week alcohol-impaired publicity and enforcement campaign” (Delkab County, Georgia Police Dept. , 2002).

Another study conducted by Levy, Shea, and Asch (1989) reported the result of some studies of the effectiveness of DWI programs in New Jersey. Effectiveness was defined in terms of traffic crash experience. Their study was devoted to a drunk driving deterrence program named Strike Force, which implemented sobriety heckpoints administered at the county level, with supervision and funding from the state and federal government. The Strike Force program provided overtime funding to police departments on a county-wide basis and used a system of random roadside checkpoints to examine drivers for possible intoxication. Police directed traffic onto a single lane, where officers spoke to the driver and provided drunk driving information materials. Drivers who appeared to have been drinking were directed to an area off the roadway for further screening (psychomotor and breath tests).The checkpoint sites and times were determined by police personnel based on prior analysis of accident and arrest data.

Operations were usually conducted on weekend nights and were moved to different sites. Although the Strike Force program remained small in terms of resources, their impact on public consciousness was important. The checkpoint programs were publicized on radio and television. The sites were unannounced, but visibility was a prime consideration. Checkpoint trailers with banners were conspicuously parked in the participating county and driven in major areas when not in use.Surveys conducted for the state found that awareness of them is close to universal among drivers. An important part of the deterrence strategy was the informational and consciousness-raising programs, which not only educate citizens but also inform then of enforcement efforts.

The fall in New Jersey’s single-vehicle nighttime rates relative to the state’s all-fatality rate and relative to the US single-vehicle nighttime fatality rate would suggest that New Jersey was effective at deterring alcohol-involved traffic crashes.The coefficient for the Strike Force variable indicated that the program at its peak reduced the single vehicle nighttime crash rate by greater than 20 percent. However, a number of other influences may have contributed, such as other statewide policy changes in New Jersey, including two increases in the minimum legal drinking age and stricter court penalties for drinking and driving (Levy et al. , 1989). Finally, another study was conducted in an attempt to reduce the amount of drivers driving under the influence on a college campus (Clapp, Johnson, Voas, Lange, Shillington & Russell, 2003).DUI checkpoints were operated by the campus police with assistance from the local city police and the highway patrol. Checkpoints were conducted on three main streets surrounding the campus.

These streets were selected because they had a significant amount of student foot traffic and motor vehicle traffic. On average, 730 cars were stopped at each checkpoint. Consistent with Ross (1982), the primary goal of the checkpoints was to increase the perception of risk of arrest for DUI. Arrests were a secondary goal. As such, the checkpoints included 10-15 officers, several police cars with their lights turned on, cones, flares and large spotlights.For each checkpoint, the local media (including the campus paper) were contacted. The checkpoints all received coverage on local television news broadcasts.

During the intervention period, the campus newspaper ran six stories related to DUI. One of these stories focused directly on increased enforcement. During the baseline period, the school paper ran 11 DUI-related stories. Additional informational tactics were used, such as telephone interviews and personal interviews. The results revealed a considerable drop in self-reported driving after drinking following the DUI prevention campaign tested at the campus.Also, perceptions of DUI risk increased for students at the university. An important part of the deterrence strategy was the informational and consciousness-raising programs.

Conclusion Law enforcement agencies should not accept mediocrity in the area of driving under the influence enforcement. It is not a societal problem. It is everyone’s problem, and no one should take it lightly. More people die or are injured on this nation’s highways due to impaired driving than from all other causes combined (Greene, 2003).It is unacceptable, and all Americans pay a price, whether personal, financial, or professional. Law enforcement agencies must take up the challenge and employ every available weapon to combat this deadly threat. This is a very possible ambition.

Through better education, increased awareness, and some strict penalties, the battle can be won. Working in collaboration with one another, the public, the law enforcement community, and the judicial system can help prevent the needless loss of life that results from drunk driving. When people are knocked away one at a time, it doesn’t make the headlines like it should, but we’ve got to make Americans realize the fact that it’s still the number one killer, and it’s 100 percent preventable. This is one thing that we can all work together to do something about” (Webb, 2002).

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