Understanding The Problem

As a community, we all support law enforcement efforts to protect us from theft, burglary, and assault. Yet, many otherwise law-abiding citizens continue to view impaired driving merely as a traffic offense. Impaired driving is no accident nor is it a victimless crime. It is a serious crime that kills more than 17,000 people and injures nearly 305,000 others every year.

Traffic crashes of all types are a serious yet often overlooked problem in this country. Every 32 minutes someone in America is murdered. Yet every 12 minutes someone dies in a traffic crash. Law enforcement agencies in every State and locality are serving on the frontlines in the fight against this deadly threat to America’s communities.

Communities are beginning to understand the economic impact of this criminal activity. Impaired driving costs the public more than $110 billion every year. Alcohol-related crashes are often more serious and deadlier than other crashes, and cost the the public more than $50 billion annually in medical services, market productivity, workplace costs, insurance administration, and legal fees.

What are Sobriety Checkpoints?

Sobriety Checkpoints
Sobriety checkpoints are an effective law enforcement tool involving the stopping of vehicles or a specific sequence of vehicles, at a predetermined fixed location, to accomplish two goals: raise the public’s perception of being arrested for driving while impaired (DWI), and detection of drivers impaired by alcohol and/or other drugs. Low-staffing sobriety checkpoints in effect accomplish the same tasks, but with fewer people. Low-staff sobriety checkpoint operations are conducted with four to six officers, they are very mobile, and typically they will not last as long as full-scale sobriety checkpoints. Low-staffing sobriety checkpoints are typically conducted by agencies having limited resources, but still which desire to make a significant impact on the impaired-driving problem in their communities.

When coordinating a low-staffing sobriety checkpoint, you should consider critical components that will make the checkpoints functional, successful, and comply with Federal, State, and local laws.

These guidelines suggest and describe procedures police administrators may want to consider to ensure that sobriety checkpoints are used legally, effectively, and safely. These points are consistent with those specified in recent court decisions, including the United States Supreme Court ruling in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, upholding the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints. An effective sobriety checkpoint program consists of components outlined below.