The Tracy Police Department recently conducted a fruitful sobriety and license checkpoint, nabbing two drunk drivers and 34 others driving without a license. While the California Supreme Court has come down on the side of law enforcement on police checkpoints, some citizens oppose what they view as overreach of police powers on freedom of travel and selective law enforcement.
How Do License and Sobriety Checkpoints Work?
Local police departments in California can conduct sobriety and license checkpoints, but the California Supreme Court has ruled that police must give the driving public notice beforehand. Police do not have to say when or where the license checkpoint will be located. The police usually choose a location with a high number of drunk-driving accidents or other types of car accidents and post an officer at each end of the checkpoint. The sobriety checkpoint must have signs, and roads prior to the checkpoint that drivers can choose to avoid the checkpoint.
Research from the Center for Disease Control supports the fact that sobriety checkpoints do reduce drunk-driving accidents by about 20 percent, according to a 2002 study. But research by the FBI indicates that saturation patrols involving multiple law enforcement agencies targeting a location known for alcohol-related arrests and accidents are actually more effective than sobriety checkpoints. The saturation patrols are more likely to result in citations for other safety issues like seat belts, licensure, commercial license violations and other motor vehicle offenses.
Neighborhoods Targeted As Sobriety and License Checkpoints
In California communities like Escondido, Latino residents have complained that the police department is unfairly targeting Latino neighborhoods. The North County Times reports that from 2006 to 2008 the police department conducted 16 of 39 license checkpoints (and 19 of 31 sobriety checkpoints) in a five-square-mile area in which Latino residents predominately live. Escondido’s city limits encompass a 36-square-mile area.
In spite of the constitutional implications of where and how these checkpoints are set up, license and sobriety checkpoints likely help to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents that occur. Drinking and driving, texting while driving, and similar behavior could all lead to an accident. If you have been injured in a car accident, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options.