UPDATE: This DUI sobriety checkpoint in New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL, proves why Florida should ban checkpoints altogether.
The officers at the New Port Richey Checkpoint managed to record their misconduct on video. We discovered the video during our representation of one person arrested for DUI during that checkpoint. Although the operational plan clearly stated that “every third (3rd) vehicle” was to be stopped, the video shows the officers consistently violated that one requirement.
At some points the video shows officers stopping four or five vehicles in a row. Other times, two or three vehicles passed through at a time. If you watch the entire video carefully, it shows that 60% of vehicles were stopped instead of 33% which is a clear violation of the operational plan. The entire checkpoint was a waste of law enforcement resources because anyone arrested that night could win a motion to suppress based on the illegality of the stop.
ORIGINAL BLOG POST: The Florida Highway Patrol organized a multi-agency DUI Sobriety Checkpoint in New Port Richey. Other agencies involved in the roadblock included the New Port Richey Police Department, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, and the Dade City Police Department.
Although the officers stopped 1,034 vehicles during the roadblock, only six individuals were arrested for DUI. Those statistics are pretty amazing considering the sheer number of law enforcement officers and public resources devoted to the checkpoint. Thousands of citizens in New Port Richey were detained in the name of “DUI enforcement” and only a handful of DUI arrests were made. If those same officers had patrolled the streets looking for suspicious drivers the number of DUI arrests might have been considerably higher.
Law enforcement officers argue that the roadblocks act as a deterrent to individuals that think it is alright to drink a small amount of alcohol before driving. The man or woman who had two beers with dinner at a restaurant will be less likely to drive home if they think being detained in a roadblock is a possibility. The show of force by police is a power deterrent regardless of the fact that only a tiny percentage of individuals detained actually did anything wrong.
The Florida Highway Patrol reported that an additional 61 arrests were made for criminal or traffic offenses (an arrest can also include a person being released at the scene with a “notice to appear” in court at a later date). Those arrests often result in vehicles being towed and storage fees being collected when the person is arrested and booked into the jail. The DUI checkpoint in New Port Richey in Pasco County was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 16, 2011, and ended at 2 a.m. Saturday, December 17, 2011.
Challenging Checkpoints Conducted by the Florida Highway Patrol
Checkpoint cases are the most scrutinized under the Fourth Amendment. In a hearing to suppress the evidence obtained during a roadblock or “sobriety checkpoint.” The Florida Highway Patrol often organizes the roadblock or checkpoint so that it has a better chance of passing constitutional muster.
The Florida Highway Patrol has published a fourteen (14) page policy manual aimed at creating a uniform policy for conducting driver license and vehicle safety inspection checkpoints, policy number 17.07 which was first issued on February 1, 1996 and last revised on September 16, 2011.
The Florida Highway Patrol’s policy manual contains procedures for who can approve and authorize the roadblock. The policy manual also requires certain uniform guidelines to cover the procedures that members are to follow at the checkpoint, including:
- the procedures for selection of vehicles;
- detention techniques;
- duty assignments; and
- the detention/disposition of vehicles.
The policy manual requires that the guidelines be written in the form of a Checkpoint Operational Plan as illustrated in Addendum 17.07-3 to the policy manual.
If you witnessed any part of the DUI checkpoint in New Port Richey please feel free to make a comment below or contact us. We also like to network with attorneys who are representing clients involved in that roadblock to compare notes about whether the guidelines were actually followed in the field.