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California city places DUI checkpoint at accident hot spot

Civil rights groups have questioned the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints, but they remain permissible under California law. Police departments say that high visibility enforcement techniques such as DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols deter irresponsible behavior and make the roads safer, and these arguments are supported by studies revealing that such checkpoints, when they are well-publicized, have been found to reduce drunk driving accidents by as much as 20 percent.

Media outlets have reported that a DUI checkpoint will be held in Marin County. The Novato Police Department say that they will be checking vehicles for intoxicated drivers between 6:00 p.m. on May 18 and 1:00 a.m. on May 19. The location of the checkpoint was not revealed, but a NPD representative said that it would be conducted at a known accident and drunk driving hot spot. Police say that they will also be checking driver’s licenses during the seven-hour operation, which is being funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Accidents involving impaired drivers in California claimed 1,155 lives and left more than 20,000 road users injured in 2014, and studies have revealed that almost one in three drivers involved in fatal collisions in the state are under the influence of one or more drugs when they crash. Unintended intoxication is particularly concerning to road safety advocates because many common over-the-counter medications can cause severe impairment when combined with even small amounts of alcohol.

Drivers are generally taken into custody at DUI checkpoints after taking breath tests. While the equipment used to perform these tests is extremely sophisticated and generally very accurate, it may still provide misleading results in certain situations. Experienced criminal defense attorneys could seek to have toxicology evidence suppressed and drunk driving charges dismissed when the equipment used was not properly maintained, the police officers involved did not follow established testing procedures or their clients suffer from one of several medical conditions that could influence the outcome.

Source: Novato Patch, “DUI Checkpoint In Novato Friday”, Kristina Houck, May 15, 2018

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John Patrick Ryan has been practicing law for over 20 years. Experienced in criminal law. U.S. Navy Veteran.