Special Issues In DUI Holiday Stops
Over the recently completed Labor Day Weekend, peace officers throughout the Sunshine State stepped up their anti-DUI enforcement, as despite higher gas prices due to Hurricane Harvey, roughly a million residents traveled more than 50 miles from home, and about 90 percent of them drove to and from their destinations.
Publishing heiress Patty Hearst, whom some would consider an authority on this subject, once said that “Trouble is easy to find if you go looking for it.” And whether the stop occurs as part of a roving patrol or a DUI checkpoint, that saying is certainly true in this area of the law.
During questioning, defense lawyers often ask arresting DUI officers if they were on routine patrol or STEP patrol; Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs often have other names in certain places, such as saturation patrol or DUI patrol. This question-and-answer exchange is not just idle chit-chat, because the type of patrol can affect the officer’s judgment.
Basically, in STEP campaigns, officers are pulled from their normal beats and shifts, redirected to a certain area of town at a certain time, and instructed to issue as many citations as possible for certain infractions, such as DUI.
Many times, a government grant pays for the officer overtime and other expenses associated with the effort, and the number of arrests is about the only measuring rod of success. Therefore, officers in these situations are under intense pressure to issue citations as directed, and that may affect their judgment, especially in some borderline situations.
Officers must have reasonable suspicion to stop vehicles in these circumstances, and although the Supreme Court has relaxed that rule in recent years, it is still in force and officers still need “specific, articulable facts” to support DUI stops. If there are no such facts, the stop is arguably invalid.
The reasonable suspicion rules does not apply at DUI roadblocks, but a number of other rules do govern these checkpoints, as outlined by Michigan State Police v. Sitz and some related cases. Some highlights include:
- Prior Publicity: The sponsoring department must give advance notice to motorists so they may avoid the area if they choose to do so.
- Roadblock Layout: In terms of the locations, duration, method of stopping cars, and all other such elements, officers in the field can have absolutely no discretion. At least one supervisor must set out every last detail in advance and officers cannot deviate from the prepared plan.
- Neutral Formula: When vehicles arrive at the roadblock, officers cannot wave some through and inspect others at random. Instead, there must be a specific formula, such as stopping every third vehicle, and officers cannot pull over other motorists because they do not “look right.”
- Opportunity to Avoid: Similar to the first bullet above, there must be sufficient signage in front of the roadblock to allow motorists to turn around and go another direction before traffic piles up.
Motorists who avoid the roadblock at the last minute will probably be followed for several blocks, but officers cannot pull them over for asserting their rights. The same thing applies in line, because although motorists must produce a driver’s license, insurance, and other requested documents, they do not need to roll down their windows or interact with officers in any way.
Contact Aggressive Lawyers
The type of stop has a significant bearing on a DUI defense. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.