On Tuesday, 4 U.S. Senators asked Apple, Google, and Blackberry to stop the use of DWI Checkpoint Apps. In the letter the Senators appeal to the corporation’s “desire to end the scourge of drunk driving. They further address the capability of these apps to notify users in real-time of the location of DWI checkpoints.
DWI Checkpoints are a horribly inefficient way of making DWI arrests. They require a tremendous amount of manpower. While they are Constitutional, the Government has to jump through substantial hoops before the results of a checkpoint DWI arrest will be admissible in court. Typically an officer must have reasonable suspicion before they can stop a driver. That means the officer must have observed the driver committing some sort of traffic or criminal violation. Checkpoints obviously don’t meet that requirement. Every car gets stopped without reason.
Because there is no reasonable suspicion to stop the driver, the checkpoint must meet a number of requirements to be Constitutional. They must be designed in response to some demonstrated need, they must be set up in such a way that the officers don’t have discretion on who gets stopped, and finally they must not be stop drivers for an excessive amount of time. Proving Constitutionality in court requires the presence of several officers. Many of whom are typically higher ups in the police force.
Driving behavior is usually a strong factor in prosecuting DWI cases. It is a much stronger case where an officer stops someone for swerving all over the road. However, in most checkpoint cases there is no meaningful driving behavior. All things being equal it is easier for a Fairfax DWI Attorney to win a checkpoint case than a standard DWI case.
Also checkpoints don’t usually produce substantial numbers of arrests. A quick check of recent results shows a checkpoint with 720 stops and only 4 arrests. Another with 351 stops and only 1 arrest. Another with 738 stops and 3 arrests. And another with nearly 1000 stops and 0 arrests.
So they are hard to prove, require a lot of manpower and testimony, present Constitutional issues, and aren’t particularly good at producing results. So why do them? The simple answer is deterrence. When people are driving to the bar at 11 and see a checkpoint on there way home, they are more likely to call cabs. Plain and simple the all inclusive nature of checkpoints scare people. The fact that you can’t talk your way out of it scares people. The sheer showing of force scares people. To that extent the more people that know about checkpoints the better. Ironically, to that end the Senators attempt to stop drunk driving by eliminating the apps is entirely misplaced.