Drivers subjected to "voluntary" procedure say they feel like DUI stops
A Sheriff's office in Denver has been blasted by drivers after it engaged in the operation of what appeared to be DUI checkpoints but were in fact stops being carried out by a private non-profit research group.
The Gilpin County Sheriff's Office was hit with complaints earlier this week from motorists who say they were not properly informed of the nature of the stops and felt that they were non-voluntary. One Undersheriff even described the procedure as "like a telemarketer that you couldn't hang up on,".
The Denver post reported on the incident earlier this week:
Sgt. Bob Enney said deputies assisted the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in stopping motorists at five sites along Colorado 119 for surveys on any drug and alcohol use. Surveyors then asked the motorists to voluntarily submit to tests of their breath, blood and saliva. At least 200 drivers were tested, Enney said. About five motorists later complained, he said.
The research is reportedly part of a nationwide study partly financed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Some motorists told the Post that they repeatedly asked if the questioners were law enforcement officials and after stating that they were not interested in participating in the study, were still not given clearance to leave.
Describing the surveyors as being dressed in blue jumpsuits, others stated that they were "too persistent" and even offered $100 incentives to motorists in an attempt to get them to change their minds after they had declined to take part in the survey. Some even said that the surveyors then ridiculed the motorists for not taking the money.
In recent years police have moved towards taking blood samples as they cannot be challenged where as breath tests can. As this report from the Wall Street journal explains:
"In the past, police routinely asked suspected drunk drivers to blow into devices that extrapolated their blood's alcohol content from their breath. Now, authorities in most states are taking blood, by force if necessary.Laws in at least seven states allow police to take blood without the driver's consent, without explicitly authorizing force. In most other states, court rulings have authorized reasonable force to obtain blood. Many such rulings cite a little-known fact about driving laws in the U.S.: All motorists are considered to have consented to a search of their blood, breath or urine. Such "implied consent" laws were introduced in New York in 1953, and today all 50 states and the District of Columbia have them."
Regular DUI checkpoints have increasingly come under scrutiny across the country with some judges ruling them unconstitutional and illegal. Lawmakers have also challenged checkpoints and introduced bills to outlaw them. Rep. Charlene Lima, of Cranston, who sponsored a 2005 bill, said the checkpoints violate people's civil rights, and "smack of a police state." The American Civil Liberties Union also opposes checkpoints.
The Constitution of the United States states that police cannot stop someone and conduct an investigation unless there are "articulable facts". Within the language of the 4th Amendment DUI checkpoints constitute a "seizure".
Despite these facts the MADD maintains the following on its website:
MYTH: Sobriety checkpoints constitute illegal search and seizure and are, therefore, unconstitutional.MYTH: People don't like the use of sobriety checkpoints to detect and deter impaired drivers. They consider them a form of police harassment and an invasion of their privacy.
While the blatant violation of the constitution continues with regular checkpoints however, it cannot be argued that it is legal for local officials to allow private companies to stop motorists in seemingly enforced situations.
In other instances police have been caught putting signs up warning drivers of upcoming DUI checkpoints where in fact there are none and then detaining and searching drivers who make illegal u-turns or desperately fling contraband from their vehicles.
It is now the norm to consider everybody equally likely to be guilty of something than innocent. This is proactive policing, not preventative or reactive policing. And the worrying thing is that this kind of policing is more widely indicative of a society that is NOT free.
If you encounter a checkpoint you should ask the personnel there if they are officers of the law, whether you are being detained or not and if they have probable cause. If the answer to one of these questions is no then there is no lawful right to stop you.