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Do DUI Checkpoints Deter Drunk Driving?

dui checkpoint

There is no doubt that drunk driving is a dangerous practice. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10,500 people died in 2016 in drunk-driving related crashes. Many people believe that more should be done to put an end to drunk driving. While lawmakers and various organizations have played around with numerous different tactics, including anti-drunk driving campaigns, one strategy that has been experimented with is the implementation of DUI checkpoints.

Also called sobriety checkpoints, these stops are highly contested, and opinions about their effectiveness are far from conclusive. For example, an article in The Washington Times explains “why sobriety checkpoints don’t work,” whereas an article published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claims that “sobriety checkpoints deter impaired drivers.”

Here is a look at the data and evidence regarding whether or not DUI checkpoints really deter drunk driving. If you have been stopped at a DUI checkpoint and are facing DUI charges as a result, call the experienced criminal law attorneys at the Pack Law Group for a consultation about your rights and defense options.

Do DUI Checkpoints Actually Work to Deter Drunk Drivers?

The effectiveness of DUI checkpoints in the deterrence of drunk drivers (not the apprehension of them) is based on the assumption that drunk drivers (or potential drunk drivers) think that there will be a checkpoint. This idea stems from research published in an article ¬†entitled, “Alcohol-Impaired Driving and Perceived Risks of Legal Consequences,” which concluded that the perception of risk was a critical factor in determining whether or not people decide to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

As an interesting side note, the research also found that license suspension was an extremely ineffective method in preventing drinking while driving. Another study concluded that the fear of being apprehended for drunk driving was more effective in deterring drivers than harsher DUI penalties.

The CDC also strongly advocates for sobriety checkpoints. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has completed an analysis of 11 different studies, ultimately concluding that data shows DUI checkpoints reduce alcohol-related fatal injury crashes, injury crashes, and property damage crashes by about 20 percent each. Another analysis concluded that the risk of alcohol-related crashes was reduced by about 17 percent when sobriety checkpoints are used. However, gathering data can be difficult, as it is impossible to make an accurate assumption about the number of potentially impaired drivers who, because of a DUI checkpoint, decided not to drive while impaired.

There is also evidence to the contrary, which suggests that sobriety checkpoints don’t work. To draw from the Washington Times article cited above, many researchers believe that DUI checkpoints slow down traffic, lead to congestion, and irritate drivers, but they don’t actually work in terms of stopping drunk driving. For example, one stop in Ohio screened more than 450 drivers but did not make a single arrest. The conclusion that stops don’t deter drivers, however, based on this evidence alone is specious; perhaps no drivers were caught precisely because the DUI checkpoint was in place, and as such, drunk persons decided not to drive.

What Happens if I’m Stopped at DUI Checkpoint and Have Been Drinking?

You might think that if you are stopped at DUI checkpoint, asked to submit to a field sobriety test, and you are ultimately charged for drunk driving, your legal rights have been violated. After all, don’t police officers have to have probable cause to stop a car?

Most of the time, the answer is yes. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that because the dangers presented by drunk driving are so great, these dangers outweigh the degree of intrusion that is put forth by sobriety checkpoints. As such, you can be stopped without cause, and you may be asked to submit to a field sobriety test or blood or breath alcohol test if police have reason to suspect that you are impaired.

Call Our Virginia DUI Attorneys Today

If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Virginia, whether evidence against you was obtained at a DUI checkpoint or not, you need a skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side. Our team at the Pack Law Group is ready to advocate aggressively on your behalf. Please call our law office today for a consultation about how we can build your defense. You can reach us at 540-586-7255, send us a secure and confidential online message, or visit our Bedford office in person.

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