Sobriety Checkpoints are the primary manner in which a majority of agencies in the United States attempt to deter or arrest drunk drivers. A slew of controversy fueled by legal ambiguity and public outcry has lead some states to outright ban the use of these Checkpoints. Amongst the states that have done so are: Texas, Michigan, and Washington.
Rather than leaving their streets completely devoid of protection from drunk drivers however, many agencies are now using Saturation Patrols in lieu of Sobriety Checkpoints. In Saturation Patrols a large amount of deputies who are skilled in identifying and arresting drunk drivers are deployed to specific targeted locations.
Speaking from my 30 years in law enforcement and the development of recent research on this topic by expert groups, Saturation patrols seem to be the sensible solution to the problem that is drunk driving. My reasoning for this is simple, in a side-by-side comparison of Saturation Patrols and Sobriety Checkpoints based on a criterion of constitutionality, and effectiveness – the choice becomes rather obvious.
Sobriety Checkpoints fall on a thin line between being compliant with and violating the 4th amendment “reasonable suspicion” clause. While the courts have stated that the amount to which these Checkpoints intrude on motorists is outweighed by the benefit of reducing drunk driving on the streets, many citizen’s would argue that their freedoms should not be overstepped for any reason – and rightfully so.
Thankfully, there is less uncertainty in the constitutionality of Saturation Patrols. In this method, law enforcement agents must have empirical evidence to pull a motorist over, greatly minimizing random selection which criminalizes citizens without justification.
Sadly, the benefits to which these courts point to as a reason for continuing Checkpoints are not statistically valid. On average 1% or less of the motorists (according to an analysis of California checkpoints for 2008) who pass through a checkpoint are actually arrested for DUI’s. Rather than inconveniencing innocent motorists with a faulty system that allows a multitude of drunk drivers to escape, Saturation Patrol Officers can easily catch more drunk drivers per person with much more flexibility and specialized skill.
With these statistics it’s no wonder the FBI has stated that “it is proven that saturation efforts will bring more DUI arrests than sobriety checkpoints”. Therefore as Sheriff I will proudly protect the rights and lives of the citizens of San BernardinoCounty by introducing Saturation Patrols.