I can hardly believe the recent events in Baldwin Park.
Last night the council unanimously agreed to suspect all DUI checkpoints due to protesting residents who felt local police were abusing their power.
This is unheard of (by me) to see a council suspend DUI checkpoints and for such protesting to occur.
DUI checkpoints, for most people, have just become a fact of life. Busy weekends, neighborhoods with bars, etc. all bring on the checkpoints proposed to help prevent or catch drunk drivers. Most of the checkpoints are run by local police departments, but are funded by the state through a grant program from the Office of Traffic Safety.
But the reality is most checkpoints don’t catch drunk drivers and while they are hailed as a deterrent, there really is no empirical data to support that assertion.
Opponents often look at the checkpoints as more of a “papers” check, a place where police can happen upon unlicensed, uninsured, unregistered drivers, parolees, people with warrants for arrest, etc.
In fact, most people arrested or that have their cars impounded at checkpoints are of that variety than of the drunk driving group. Vastly.
Here is an editorial from a police Lieutenant defending checkpoints that makes a similar point that even without much DUI arrests, checkpoints serve the health and safety of society.
But is it constitutional?
At a recent Baldwin Park checkpoint leading up to the suspension, 150 cars were impounded but a source said the majority were unrelated to issues of sobriety.
Prior to that, Tom Himes reported about a woman suing the Baldwin Park Police Department for unlawfully impounding her car.
In El Monte last month, police checked more than 2,000 cars, impounded 27 vehicles and made one arrest for driving under the influence.
Those numbers are contradictory to the purpose of checkpoints. In 2005, the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Miranda v. City of Cornelius established that many impounds are “unreasonable seizures” that don’t jive with the Fourth Amendment.
Still, police departments don’t seem to be listening too closely to the appeals court decision, but this newspaper is.
Editor Frank Girardot took the practice to task in his column here.
The paper’s editorial board also took a stance against the checkpoint structure and system.
More background on the issues in Baldwin Park here.
I think it is safe to say, that in Los Angeles Courty, a system of checkpoints that worked relatively under the radar without critique or oversight is finally getting a dash of its medicine.
What are your thoughts? Is using sobriety as a reason for checkpoints misleading? Should they no longer use the guise of DUI deterrent if they continue checkpoints? Are police officers stepping on the rights of citizens? Or, despite the contradiction between their name and the outcome, do the results of the checkpoints, (i.e. arrests of wanted individuals, impounding vehicles of unlicensed drivers, etc.) outweigh the potential infringement of the Fourth amendment?
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