Are sobriety checkpoints useful if police announce them?

As Troy police officers try to stop drunk drivers this holiday season, they may resort to sobriety checkpoints and other coordinated efforts to crack down on driving under the influence. For people on Troy's roads, this provides an added layer of security at a time when there are likely more people driving who have been drinking than at any other time during the year. Though sobriety checkpoints are supposed to help get drunk drivers off the road, are they really effective when police announce them?

One police officer says they are. His department aggressively announces every drunk driving campaign they put on and are still able to catch drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is unknown, however, if there is also an increase in the number of crashes during sobriety checkpoints as inebriated drivers try to avoid the checkpoints.

The reason behind the public announcement is because of a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The court overwhelmingly decided that it would violate an individual's Fourth Amendment rights if police did not adequately warn the public about sobriety checkpoints and drunk driving campaigns. The checkpoints allow police officers to stop every car that comes through, regardless of whether they have a reasonable suspicion, but for any evidence to hold up in a court of law, the officers must either warn drivers or have suspicion that a crime has happened when the officer pulls the car over.

Hopefully, announcing a sobriety checkpoint does not cause drunk drivers to take roads they are unfamiliar with in an effort to avoid police. If this does happen, there may actually be an increase in the number of serious accidents on Troy's roads.

Source: Valley Independent Sentinel, "Why Do Police Announce DUI Checkpoints?" Ethan Fry, Nov. 20, 2012

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