Sobriety Checkpoints 101

Sobriety Checkpoints 101

As a driver in the United States, you may or may not have had the experience of being examined at a sobriety checkpoint. While not all states allow them, these random checkpoints are designed to prevent intoxicated individuals from driving on major roadways.

How Do Sobriety Checkpoints Work?

Sobriety checkpoints function as a random checkpoint at specially designated locations, inititated by law enforcement to help prevent driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Usually a part of a larger deterrence program, the checkpoints have some questionable legal components that render them possible only in select states.

In a checkpoint procedure, law enforcement officials will process vehicles through a detour and randomly check drivers for signs of intoxication or impairment. Checkpoints are generally regulated to avoid improper execution, such as officers setting up a checkpoint whenever and wherever they choose. For the most part, checkpoint designations are made at a supervisory level rather than letting field officers decide where the checkpoints will be.

The pullover process is determined by a neutral formula—for instance, pulling over every other car or every third car as traffic naturally goes by. Safety is always prioritized, meaning that sobriety checkpoints will not be set up in exceptionally busy areas or in any case in which it would be dangerous to the officers or the drivers. For this reason, the length of motorist detention is always attempted to be minimal. Checkpoints are always designated with clear signs and warning lights.

Where Are They Found?

As the wording suggests, “random” checkpoints could be found just about anywhere they are allowed. Currently, 38 states and the District of Columbia allow sobriety checkpoints. As for the other 12 states, five explicitly prohibit sobriety checkpoints by law, five are illegal according to the state’s constitution, Texas interprets them as illegal from the U.S. Constitution and Alaska has no authority to conduct them.

Sobriety checkpoints are usually placed in areas where there have been a high number of intoxicated drivers or accidents. Usually, policy-making officials will designate the area in question as needing a sobriety checkpoint. Officials will limit the duration of the checkpoint based on how effective it is thought to be, or on how intrusive the checkpoint will be for normal traffic patterns.

Most often, sobriety checkpoints are publicized before being implemented, in order to increase the deterrent effect and aid in the safety of drivers and officers. Oftentimes, sobriety checkpoints are set up on days when drunk drivers are likely to be found, such as holiday weekends or around significant activities like concerts or sporting events. However, these are usually done late at night to avoid interference with ordinary traffic.

Sobriety checkpoints have proven to be an effective means of helping to deter driving while intoxicated. While only 38 states currently allow them to be used, their strict guidelines and strategic implementation have helped law enforcement officials take another step toward keeping the road free of intoxicated drivers.

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