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Police Oppose New Bill Proposal Aiming to Limit Scope of DUI Checkpoints

September 20, 2011

A new bill proposed in the state of California that would require advanced notice of DUI checkpoints and limit punishments for unlicensed drivers is facing criticism from police agencies.

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Authored and submitted by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D) and Michael Allen (D), California AB353 is a new bill that aims to restrict punishments at DUI checkpoints for individuals found guilty of non-DUI related crimes, as well as requires advanced notice of DUI checkpoints. The bill is being met with harsh criticism by police agencies, who argue the proposed measures make DUI checkpoints less effective.

The bill, which is before Governor Jerry Brown for approval, would require law enforcement agencies to provide two hours advanced notice of the specific location of DUI checkpoints and 48 hours advanced notice of the general location. Motorists would also be allowed to make a safe, legal turn away from the checkpoint route in order to avoid it – something that is currently not allowed. Assemblyman Michael Allen has proposed these changes be implemented because of the nature of existing DUI checkpoints. Though their purpose is to reduce incidences of drunk driving and detain those who are caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, more drivers are detained for infractions relating to their driver’s license than alcohol. The measures he is aiming to implement, his spokesman states, is to keep DUI checkpoints focused on drunk driving infractions and to ensure checkpoints follow uniform guidelines, of which there are currently already several in place, including:

  • DUI checkpoints cannot be used to conduct vehicle inspections, or cite motorists for vehicle-related infractions.
  • The location of a DUI checkpoint should not be arbitrary; it should be based on high occurrences of DUI infractions in a particular area.
  • Police officers are not free to stop individuals that they suspect of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol or in violation of other laws; either all vehicles must be stopped or vehicles must be stopped utilizing a neutral methodology.

California AB353 would place additional guidelines on DUI checkpoints to reduce citations of individuals who are not driving under the influence of controlled substances and to greatly reduce punishment for those who are. Currently, drivers without valid licenses are subject to immediate arrest and a 30-day impound of their vehicle. The new measurement would restrict a police officer’s right to arrest individuals and place their automobiles in impoundment.

Police agencies are in opposition to the measurement, as they believe it takes away from their ability to properly carry out their duties, and makes DUI checkpoints far less effective. Sebastopol Police Chief Jeff Weaver is quoted in the Petaluma 360 as saying the measure is a bad idea. “Because of the way this law is written, it would allow multiple-time unlicensed drivers to avoid the impoundment of their car.” Petaluma Police Chief Dan Fish indicated that the new restrictions would impede the checkpoint’s ability to detain drunk drivers, and new rules requiring advanced notice, and allowing for motorists to avoid the checkpoints altogether, were detrimental. “Drunk drivers are not going to drive through the checkpoints; they’re going to drive somewhere else.”

The bill is currently under consideration, and has been proposed to Governor Jerry Brown. He has until October 9th, 2011 to authorize or veto the bill.

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