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Why does California law enforcement announce DUI checkpoints?

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California law enforcement officials frequently send public service announcements about scheduled DUI checkpoints throughout the state, which has prompted some community members to ask ‘why?’

“This is done as a result of case law, specifically Ingersoll v. Palmer, ” Lincoln Police Department Officer Brett Schneider told FOX40.com. “This case law established guidelines for evaluating the constitutionality of checkpoints. Prior public notice was one of eight requirements also known as the Ingersoll 8.”

In 1984, California conducted its first official checkpoint in Burlingame, according to casetext.com. During the checkpoint, every fifth vehicle was stopped and drivers were screened for various indicators of intoxication. Some drivers felt that the checkpoint violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Shortly after, taxpayers who opposed the newly mandated stop worked together and filed a petition against local authorities to contend the validity of sobriety checkpoints. The case was known as Ingersoll v. Palmer and made its way to the California Supreme Court. In 1987, the courts upheld checkpoints as long as certain stipulations were enforced – one being to send out public notice before a DUI checkpoint was initiated.

Although checkpoints reportedly aim to crack down on drunk or intoxicated drivers, some people fear that notices about their whereabouts help those in violation avoid getting caught.

“If we hold a checkpoint and contact zero drivers under the influence, some may feel that it was not a successful checkpoint,” Schneider said. “Since education and awareness of the dangers of DUI driving is the goal, the idea of zero arrests is not a bad thing. It can be construed that through the public notices and the checkpoint itself, drivers made choices which resulted in them possibly not driving impaired.”

Schneider added, “The goal of DUI checkpoints is not to make arrests, but to prevent, deter and educate. The more notice, the better. If a driver knows there is a DUI checkpoint planned, maybe it will cause them to think twice before driving impaired.”

Schneider encouraged people to spread the word about known DUI checkpoints.

“Expect them, share them, and encourage others to make smart choices when operating vehicles,” Schneider said.

Roseville Police Department Lt. Christopher Ciampa told FOX40.com that he agreed with the perspective that notices about DUI checkpoints don’t help intoxicated drivers get away.

“They don’t help people not get caught, it’s more for traffic advisement for non-DUI drivers,” Ciampa said. “The notices don’t really impact the checkpoints.”

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