DUI Checkpoints May Be On the Way Out

How Facebook and Twitter mess with DUI checkpoints

One of the more human aspects of social media is that people use Facebook and Twitter to warn their fellow men and women of DUI checkpoints. Now police are attempting to spring more surprises.

Chris Matyszczyk
They come out during the day too. (Credit: 2StrokeYardSale/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)
The police are sometimes accused of linear thinking, especially when it comes to DUI checkpoints. They set them up on Friday and Saturday nights. They redouble their efforts on New Year’s Eve. Perhaps the finest example would was one police force in the wine country of Northern California that decided to put a DUI checkpoint at the bottom of a winery’s driveway. Yes, on barrel-tasting day. The police now have a stronger enemy in the people — the people who are using social media to warn others that this particular Friday or Saturday night has been selected for special drunk-driving checking. At first, it seems that police were a little bemused by the very idea that people wouldn’t want other people to be caught be the police. Now, however, some police forces have decided to use more sprightly tactics to ensnare those who are unwise enough to imbibe and drive. As the Associated Press reports, big checkpoints may be on the way out. They’re too obvious, take too long to set up and word travels too quickly, as they’re so often located on busy roads — on the shooting-fish-in-barrel principle. Now, some police forces say they are using roads less traveled and even setting up in the middle of the week in order to catch their quota. The AP quoted Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, as saying: “Social media cuts both ways. It can be a good tool to inform the public about what’s going on, and it also can be used to undermine enforcement efforts.” But is informing others on Facebook and Twitter that the police are out in force truly undermining enforcement efforts? Or does it, in fact, show a peculiar form of solidarity that isn’t always evident in other aspects of social life? It’s quite common for people to keep themselves to themselves. Caring for one’s fellow human isn’t always such a natural impulse, as the debate over universal health care often shows. Perhaps there’s something about DUI checkpoints that people find essentially unfair (which doesn’t mean they’re unnecessary, of course). Perhaps there’s also that element of so many knowing that there, but for the grace of Facebook and Twitter, go they. It’s almost as if there is some unspoken understanding that we should all be allowed to party a little, given life’s gamut of tribulations. Yes, we shouldn’t get behind the wheel when we drink, but many seem to be saying that it would be a shame if we were actually caught doing so.

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Ray Lopez has practiced since 1990, with prior experience as a Hillsborough County assistant State attorney and lawyer for the Tampa Police Department. He handles all criminal charges, from traffic violations and misdemeanors to serious felonies and federal drug charges. He practices in all state and federal courts of the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida, as well as criminal appeals, juvenile court, administrative hearings, and civil forfeiture proceedings.

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