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Are Colorado sobriety checkpoints effective?

The area near the intersection of Denver’s W. Alameda Ave. and S. Knox Court holds a few widely spaced businesses, including a gas station, a nondescript restaurant and a small, white church. Traffic flows heavily as motorists near South Federal Boulevard.

If you were out driving in the area this past weekend, you might have seen a DUI checkpoint there, but if a recent published criticism of those law enforcement efforts is correct, you likely didn’t see many people being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The columnist for the Fresno Bee argues that sobriety checkpoints “are an ineffective enforcement measure that intimidate responsible social drinkers.” The author notes that earlier this year, one such Colorado checkpoint had more than 1,500 drivers pass slowly through, with “a mere one percent” taken into custody on suspicion of DUI.

She also cites Hamilton County, Indiana’s efforts: last year, only 4 percent of their checkpoints resulted in any DUI arrests. West Virginia, too, has had problems nabbing drunken drivers, though they apparently make extensive use of checkpoints. Out of 130,000 drivers who went through their roadblocks in a year’s time, only 189 drivers were arrested.

The author does note that defenders of sobriety checkpoints argue that the low arrest totals indicate that the enforcement efforts are working. Drivers who have had too much to drink are staying off of the roads, they say.

She rebuts their argument by pointing out that social media might well be helping drivers circumvent the roadblocks. Also, many drivers can see the traffic jams the checkpoints can cause and simply take an alternative route.

However, even if the checkpoints only ensnare a few drivers, for those few the reality is that they face an intimidating legal system threatening their driving privileges, reputations, insurance rates and freedom. Experienced legal counsel is available to guide the accused through the system while informing them of their rights and legal options.    

Source: Fresnobee.com, "Sarah Longwell: Sobriety checkpoints don't do job," Aug. 30, 2014

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