There are basically three ways in which officers arrest a suspect on suspicion of drunk driving charges in Alabama. The first way is when officers respond to a car crash and suspect one or both of the drivers was driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
Another way in which authorities come in contact with suspected drunk drivers is through routine traffic stops. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has conducted research for decades and created a training program and manual, which gives a certain number of clues a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs. Some of these clues of drunk driving are speeding, weaving, failure to stay in a lane, unnecessary delays in starting when a light changes to green, taking too long to stop, and a variety of other similar behaviors.
The third way in which police in Alabama come in contact with suspected drunk drivers is through the use of a sobriety checkpoint. However, according to a recent article in the Montgomery Advertiser, field sobriety checkpoints may not be as effective as authorities who use them would hope. The author suggests the many sobriety checkpoints set up throughout our state do a good job of slowing down traffic and causing delays but do not do such a good stopping drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.
As our Birmingham DUI defense attorneys can explain, the police arrest a very small percentage of the people who pass through a field sobriety checkpoint. A recent California sobriety checkpoint saw nearly 600 cars pass through it, and officers running the checkpoint only arrested two drivers over an eight-hour period. When considering the tremendous cost of operating the checkpoint and extra traffic created as a result of stopping all these cars, it does not seem like an effective way for the police to target drunk driving.
It should also be noted, even if police make an arrest for drunk driving at a sobriety checkpoint, an attorney may be able to defend the case through a motion to suppress. Sobriety checkpoints are legal, but the police must have a plan for exactly what they are going to do and stick to that plan. They cannot stop cars they think contain drunk drivers and then claim it was random. They must instead stop cars in a repetitive pattern. For example, they can decide to stop every fifth car, and they must stick to this predetermined order.
When they are in a motions hearing on a motion to suppress and illegal search and seizure, many police officers are unable to describe the system they were allegedly using or prove they were really only stopping cars in accordance with this predetermined system.
However, it is important to understand the facts in every case are different, and you should speak an experienced drunk driving defense attorney about your particular situation.
One other reason these sobriety checkpoints are not as effect as the police would like is drivers are using social traffic apps to warn other drivers of a sobriety checkpoint, so they can avoid it on their way home from the bar.
Police should avoid ineffective sobriety checkpoints, May 24, 2015, Montgomery Advertiser