When someone says "DUI enforcement," what is the first thing that comes to mind? For many it is the traditional DUI checkpoint, where officers stop passing vehicles at random and determine if there is reasonable suspicion of intoxication by alcohol or drugs. If so, the driver performs field sobriety tests. If those fail, a chemical test is requested.
DUI checkpoints aren't the only method of planned enforcement, however. If you've seen our regular checkpoint posts, you'll notice that both checkpoints and saturation patrols are listed. The latter is a different approach to the same problem. Instead of a stationary sobriety checkpoint, the same officers overload an area with patrol cars and stop drivers who show signs of intoxication or violate traffic laws. The same process is then used to evaluate sobriety.
Both strategies were recently employed in the San Fernando Valley, according to the Burbank Leader. In Burbank, a traditional DUI checkpoint was conducted. In Glendale, the checkpoint was called off due to rain and a saturation patrol was employed instead, reports the News-Press. Here were the results:
- Burbank: 803 vehicles screened, 2 field sobriety checks, 0 arrests for DUI.
- Glendale: 70 vehicles stopped, 21 field sobriety checks, 9 arrests for DUI.
If success is determined by arrest rates, then the checkpoint was an unmitigated disaster with a zero percent success rate while the saturation patrol had a 12.9 percent success rate. Of course, the caveats about small sample size apply. This is a snapshot of one weekend in the Valley. Others might argue that the deterrent factor of simply conducting checkpoints keeps people off of the road. Still, the results are certainly interesting, especially in light of similar results for other checkpoints in Santa Clarita and other localities in SoCal.
Why might saturation patrols be (seemingly) more effective? For one, drunken drivers cannot actively avoid them. Checkpoints are stationary and their locations are often pre-published. There are even apps for smartphones that will alert drivers to nearby checkpoints so that a different route can be taken.
Saturation patrols, on the other hand, just flood the area with more officers on patrol. Without a preplanned route or location, roving DUI enforcers are much more difficult to avoid.
While these numbers may be from only a single weekend, they do bear further discussion as to whether a shift in strategy may be called for.
- Consult a Los Angeles DUI Attorney (FindLaw)
- Field Sobriety Tests: Do I Have To? Should I? (FindLaw's Los Angeles DUI Blog)
- San Bernardino Sheriff Hopeful Paul Shrader Opposes Checkpoints (FindLaw's Los Angeles DUI Blog)
- 25 Years Later: Ingersoll v. Palmer's Checkpoint Guidelines (FindLaw's Los Angeles DUI Blog)