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As Compliance Replaces Controversy, Sheriff Cautions of 2 DUI Checkpoints in Palm Coast

| December 18, 2014

What they call a field sobriety exercise. (Law Enforcement Today)

What they call a field sobriety exercise. (Law Enforcement Today)

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has scheduled two DUI checkpoints for this Friday, Dec. 19, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. The checkpoints will be located at Palm Coast Pkwy NW and Frontage Road as well as State Road 100, East of Old Kings Road. The checkpoints are part of the agency’s continued effort to curb traffic fatalities, injuries and crashes and to emphasize its commitment to make county roadways safe.

Anyone pulled over for a check may be subject to questions and potential arrest or citation beyond alcohol or drug-related matters. Those matters may include issues as minor as lack of registration or insurance or improper or malfunctioning equipment on a vehicle, or more serious violations. When the sheriff’s office last conducted DUI enforcement around Labor Day some 10 weeks ago, the operation led to 247 traffic stops, 43 citations, 204 written or verbal warnings and 25 arrests, but only three DUIs.

The use of the checkpoints is a change from saturation patrols that have been deployed in the past and is designed to emphasize to the public the importance of removing impaired drivers from county roadways, reducing the likelihood that an impaired driver will operate a vehicle.

Drivers are reminded that it is a crime to mix alcohol or drugs with driving a vehicle, though Florida law, while forbidding alcohol consumption in a moving vehicle, allows drivers to drink then drive as long as their blood alcohol content does not exceed 0.08 percent. For men and women, that usually mean drinking one glass of wine or beer, or a 1.5-ounce shot of heavier liquor, before driving, will not exceed the 0.08 level. Nevertheless, whatever the legal limit states, intoxication begins with the first sip of alcohol, which does diminish alertness and reflexes. It is, in sum, never safe to drink any amount before driving, if arriving at your destination–as opposed to evading legal trouble–is your priority.

Avoid the risk of becoming involved in a motor vehicle accident by being responsible and selecting a designated driver before you go out for the evening. If you are with a group of friends and you see one of them has been drinking, don’t let him or her get behind the wheel. Take the keys and help make arrangements to get the individual wherever he or she may be going, safely. “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” may be a cliche. It’s also a life-saver.

Motorists can help to remove impaired drivers from the roadways by calling 911 immediately any time they observe a vehicle they suspect may be operated by an impaired driver.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s DUI checkpoint operation is being funded by a $100,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, which makes the checkpoints a requirement. Last year, the sheriff’s office received $70,000 from the state transportation department to carry out a similar series of check points.

All checkpoints are not alike: courts have set out strict guidelines that police must follow.

All checkpoints are not alike, or legal: Florida courts have set out parameters within which the checkpoints may be conducted, and require every department conducting checkpoints to have written guidelines that may be freely examined by the public. “The requirement of written guidelines is not merely a formality,” Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal ruled. “Rather, it is the method this Court and others have chosen to ensure that the police do not act with unbridled discretion in exercising the power to stop and restrain citizens who have manifested no conduct that would otherwise justify an intrusion on a citizen’s liberty. In this country the police are not vested with the general authority to set up ‘routine’ roadblocks at any time or place. Rather, law enforcement was placed on notice by our holding in [a previous case] that the stopping and detaining of a citizen is a serious matter that requires particularized advance planning and direction and strict compliance thereafter.” (See the Flagler sheriff’s policy and guidelines below.)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision in 1990 that DUI checkpoints were permissible, though the ruling did not go as far as calling checkpoints strictly constitutional so much as “consistent with the Fourth Amendment,” and stressed that the ruling did not apply to “unreasonable treatment of any person after an actual detention at a particular checkpoint”–a complaint that has sometimes attached to drivers’ experiences at and beyond such checkpoint encounters.

“No one can seriously dispute the magnitude of the drunken driving problem or the states’ interest in eradicating it,” Justice William Rehnquist wrote in the majority opinion at the time. “Media reports of alcohol-related death and mutilation on the nation’s roads are legion. The anecdotal is confirmed by the statistical. ‘Drunk drivers cause an annual death toll of over 25,000 and in the same time span cause nearly one million personal injuries and more than five billion dollars in property damage.'” Rehnquist described “the measure of the intrusion on motorists stopped briefly at sobriety checkpoints” as “slight,”  concluding that “the balance of the state’s interest in preventing drunken driving, the extent to which this system can reasonably be said to advance that interest, and the degree of intrusion upon individual motorists who are briefly stopped, weighs in favor of” such check-point programs.

In a previous case, Justice Harry Blackmun had I noted that the ”slaughter on the highways of this nation exceeds the death toll of all our wars,” and said he’d detected ”little genuine public concern about what takes place in our very midst and on our daily travel routes.”

John Paul Stevens

John Paul Stevens

Nevertheless, three justices dissented, citing violation of Fourth Amendment protections in the name of a popular program. “I do not dispute the immense social cost caused by drunken drivers, nor do I slight the Government’s efforts to prevent such tragic losses,” Justice William Brennan wrote in his dissent. “Indeed, I would hazard a guess that today’s opinion will be received favorably by a majority of our society, who would willingly suffer the minimal intrusion of a sobriety checkpoint stop in order to prevent drunken driving. But consensus that a particular law enforcement technique serves a laudable purpose has never been the touchstone of constitutional analysis.”

Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010, was more blunt. “The most disturbing aspect of the Court’s decision today is that it appears to give no weight to the citizen’s interest in freedom from suspicionless, unannounced investigatory seizures.” Stevens wrote. “On the other hand, the Court places a heavy thumb on the law-enforcement interest by looking only at gross receipts instead of net benefits. Perhaps this tampering with the scales of justice can be explained by the Court’s obvious concern about the slaughter on our highways, and a resultant tolerance for policies designed to alleviate the problem by ”setting an example” of a few motorists. . . . Sobriety checkpoints are elaborate, and disquieting, publicity stunts. The possibility that anybody, no matter how innocent, may be stopped for police inspection is nothing if not attention-getting. The shock value of the checkpoint program may be its most effective feature; Lieutenant Cotton of the Maryland State Police, a defense witness, testified that ‘the media coverage . . . has been absolutely overwhelming. . . . Quite frankly we got benefits just from the controversy of the sobriety checkpoints.’

“This is a case that is driven by nothing more than symbolic state action – an insufficient justification for an otherwise unreasonable program of random seizures,” Stevens concluded. “Unfortunately, the Court is transfixed by the wrong symbol – the illusory prospect of punishing countless intoxicated motorists – when it should keep its eyes on the road plainly marked by the Constitution.”

In the intervening quarter century, drivers have largely accepted checkpoints as part of society’s increasingly routine controls, with controversy yielding to submission.

Flagler Sheriff’s DUI Arrest Policy and Guidelines

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37 Responses for “As Compliance Replaces Controversy, Sheriff Cautions of 2 DUI Checkpoints in Palm Coast”

  1. " V " says:

    Ah …Christmas time in Palm Coast……Road blocks, privacy invasion, Fines, threats, NAZI ideology . What ever it takes to STEAL more money from the public. Take away your American rights by arresting you for a FELONY for having a tail light out. Steal your legally registered firearm. Yep, just love this time of the year !!!

  2. Nancy N says:

    There are “guidelines” that can make the wholesale stopping of every driver on a certain road at a certain time constitutional. That’s just prettying up what is another example of the courts slowly but surely eroding our right to protection from search and seizure under the guise of “state necessity”.

  3. Lisa says:

    What’s the big deal if you’re neither drinking or drugging it up. Until you lose a loved one because some drunk irresponsible driver has killed them…then had this checkpoint been around that night maybe loved one would still he here!

    • Fred says:

      Lisa, the big deal is sacrificing our constitutional rights is never a means that can be justified by any end. The limiting and mitigating of individual rights for a “good cause” has been the start of every imbalance of power that resulted in tyranny. At one point things like this were used by the Likes of Hitler and Stalin under the guise of public safety; and then years later people like you would say “how could they just go along with that”.

      • Frank says:

        Driving is not a constitutional right, it’s a privelege. A check point properly conducted is not intrusive or in violation of ones right to privacy. Operation of a motor vehicle is implied consent to safely operate a vehicle according to state laws. The public has an expectation of safety and the sheriff has an obligation to provide that safety.

        • John Smallberries says:

          Living in a home is not a consitutional right. Using your reasoning, it should be totally permissable for offficers to sweep through neighborhoods and demand that people leave their homes while they sweep through every window and the now-open doors with flashlights looking for anything that might be incriminating. If the homeowner refuses to leave their home then the officer can arrest them and use the refusal to search the entire house from top to bottom, and if any sizable amount of money is found then they can use asset forfeiture to take not only the cash but the entire house using the assumption that the homeowner is a drug dealer.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with Lisa !!

  4. NortonSmitty says:

    “First they came for the Drunk Drivers, but I was not one so I did not speak out…”

  5. barbie says:

    I certainly appreciate Flagler :Live announcing this–I don’t drink, but I will go out of my way to avoid these areas just on general principle. Anyone who dismisses this kind of thing with variations of “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” misses the entire point of our Constitution. And I say this as someone who lost a sister-in-law to a drunk driver (and my brother *still* feels the same as I do, even though he lost *his* loved one). We cannot control everything! To try to control “drunk driving” by making everyone on a given road or area give up their rights to not be subjected to unreasonable searches is just flat-out wrong. Our SCOTUS erred on this, too–I’d have to look, but I want to say the same SCOTUS that allowed this was the one that decided that pre-employment pee-testing was Constitutional. Sorry, these things are invasions of my privacy. Period. Those who would give up those rights at the whims of a State claiming “It’s for your own protection” doesn’t deserve those rights at all.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      Id like to know how drivers are giving up their rights when having a drivers license isn’t a right, it is a privilege. Also, a stipulation is that the dates, times and location of the checkpoint must be advertised.

  6. Staying Home says:

    My GOD…what is going on here. Now I have to be worried about coming home from Christmas shopping at Targets and being pulled over by a ” ROAD BLOCK “. Subject to search and harassment . Nope, I’m not going out anymore. And I’m NOT going to be spending my hard earned money in any establishment near these UNCONSTITUTIONAL road blocks…..Hitler most be laughing in his grave !!!

  7. Since 1987 says:

    And my guess is the nay-sayers think driving is constitutional right?

  8. tulip says:

    Why don’t they just put checkpoints out on the street outside the parking lots of barrooms. That would catch the drunks before they got too far.

  9. Freddy says:

    ” When the sheriff’s office last conducted DUI enforcement around Labor Day some 10 weeks ago, the operation led to 247 traffic stops, 43 citations, 204 written or verbal warnings and 25 arrests, but only three DUIs.”

    Three DUIs for all this effort does not seem productive for money spent but great for arresting people for other causes.

  10. Optimist says:

    Practice your constitutional rights, offer your license, registration and insurance card, if they ask ANYTHING, you state that you don’t answer questions, make sure they know they are on camera! You have rights, right to remain silent! (5th) and protection from unlawful search (4th.) if you are legit, no lights out, tag is legal. Etc, then you don’t have to answer ANY QUESTIONS. Especially like …. “Have you been drinking tonight?” Also, you don’t have to roll you window all the way down, within reason if both parties can hear each other.
    Will cops respect these rights? Not always. But it’s ok. You still have the right to practice them. Keep a notecard to offer, that simply states that you choose to exercise your constitutional rights, give them your paper work and I’d, any you have no reason to say a word to them. Once you open your mouth, you give them the ball. Police are great, but it’s time they understand that not every traffic stop should constitute prying for further incrimination.

  11. Optimist says:

    Also, if they give you trouble, ask them if your being detained. If no, you have every right to move along.

  12. GB says:

    For those of you on the right side of the political spectrum, kindly remember it was a right wing supreme court majority opinion that ruled that it’s perfectly fine for police authority to randomly stop innocent drivers for no reason, guilty until proven innocent. So much for your personal freedom, and small government philosophy. Of course no one wants wasted drivers on the road….but the constitution got shredded on this ruling.

  13. Dana says:

    All of you negative commenters really need to know the law before you speak. Operating a motor vehicle in any state is not a right protected under the constitution. It is a privilege afforded to you by each individual state. Drinking and driving is also your choice and if you are caught you have the right to refuse the road side tests and the breath tests. However it is then the States right to impose penalties for the individual not following the rules. Those rules I am speaking of are simple. When you signed your DL you agreed not to operate your vehicle under the influence of Alcohol or Drugs. If you were to be stopped and suspected of violating this rule you also agreed to give a sample of your breath, blood or urine, whichever test is offered by the arresting/ investigating agency. If YOU refuse, which is your right, there will be sanctions imposed. I will say it again, it is a privilege not a right. I and my family have the right to live our lives without being the victims of a selfish person who wants to drive drunk. That is a right protected under the constitution.

    • Nancy N says:

      Look at the statistics above from the last set of checkpoints. This isn’t about DUI at all. This is about the Sheriff’s office using this as an excuse to conduct a sweep and closely examine every single vehicle and driver passing a certain point in the road for ANYTHING they can arrest you for.

      You MIGHT have an argument if the checkpoints were only limited to checking the sobriety of the drivers. MIGHT. But once they start wholesale arresting people for anything and everything…it becomes a blanket suspicionless warrantless search and that is a clear constitutional violation.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate the warning so I don’t get tied up in the traffic and delays, but I don’t drink and drive. The people who will be partying will do their best to avoid these spots. Seems kind of dumb to me. I think they should spend the money on putting more officers on the roads stopping erratic drivers and speeders, rather than bothering all the people who are obeying the law. If you look at the stat that they only caught 3 drunk drivers last year doing this, you think they might try something different this time. I am happy those 3 never hurt anyone, but don’t you think they would have caught more than three while on patrol???? Hell, I could find that many on my daily travels. I have seen these roadblocks where people just turn around before they get to the front of the line one fourth of July. I think the money could be spent in a more effective way. Praying everyone uses good judgement and we all stay safe over the holidays. Just my opinion.

  15. downinthelab says:

    Good bye Fourth Amendment!!

  16. Gia says:

    Police Excellent ideas.

  17. confidential says:

    Too many tragedies caused by DUI’s. I agree with FCSO…if only saves on life. Driving is a privilege not a right, so do not get high and drive! Happy and Safe Holidays to all!.

  18. Jack Howell says:

    If you’re driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs then your ass needs to be put in jail! I have zero tolerance for those who would drive impaired and cause death and mayhem on the roadways.

  19. barbie says:

    Define “negative commenters”. Whether driving is a privilege or not has no bearing–I repeat, NO BEARING–on your Constitutional rights or lack of same. This giant-sized red herring would be comical if so many weren’t mindlessly regurgitating it every time an article like this one gets posted. Pick up a book and learn what your rights are and when they apply.

    • Dana says:

      The checkpoints in no way violate your constitutional rights. If it did, there wouldn’t be any checkpoints. So it takes up a little of your time by going through it. Big deal. If it stops even 1 person from possibly harming my family or anothers because of their defiance of the laws, then I will gladly salute our members of law enforcement for making the stop. And I’m sure by your comments that you would be the first to criticize our deputies if something should happen to you and they weren’t there to protect you or yours.

  20. Are you serious? says:

    Umm we all think people who patronize local bars don’t read this??? Hmmm, it’s not that I am not going to go have some drinks and drive, its that I am going to go have some drinks and NOT DRIVE HOME THIS WAY !! Hello??!!?? Am I the only one who sees this as an opportunity for “43 citations and 25 arrests”??? Not the 3 DUI’s?? Cmon people… THINK. I don’t drink and drive either… but please lets think about this ..regardless of political affiliation. Sigh…

  21. Lawstudent says:

    I will be going to this stop completely sober, assuring first that all lights and brakes and etc is working on my vehicle, I will give them my license as required, but will refuse to answer any questions. Refuse to go to a secondary screening area as there will be no probable cause. I’m a law student and I have researched these things. Don’t just give in. I think people who drink and drive are stupid as shit but it doesn’t mean they should be allowed to stop every vehicle on one road to check if you are intoxicated as there is no “probable cause” to stop the driver. Stay safe guys, and always record your encounters with police.

    • Dana says:

      Mr. Lawstudent, ask for a refund……Probable Cause is only needed when the police are making an arrest. You do not need probable cause to stop vehicles. Barbie: “Yes negative commenters” always looking for a reason to blame the hard work people who go to work every day to make sure you are safe and sound in your home.
      I agree with everyone who has ever posted that there are Bad Cops out there, but there are way more good honest hard working ones for you to paint with broad brushes.

      • barbie says:

        Dana, you clearly didn’t read my complete comment, as it in no way assigned blame. It pointed out that whether driving is a privilege or not, your Constitutional right to freedom from invasive search for no reason. Please, stop and think before you post!

    • threeeighty says:

      You don’t even have to give your ID….

  22. HonkeyDude says:

    Omg!!! Did they get anyone yet? Its 830p.
    We are now afraid of N Korea and BFF with Cuba. China has the grand canyon and V Puttin-any is are best negotiator. The Denny’s grand slam.
    All will be documented by Sell-out Chicken-Sh*t Sony if permitted (all of which will be determined by the Castro aka ” lil man free” reign of terror and…… if code of ethics allows)them to film the big brother bust of dui’s….. all awhile violating everyone’s rights for zip!!! Zilchman free castrous violations unknown how many stops or encounters for 3 busts for DUI. BS! Time for everyone to Hokie-Pokie gov BS…. def time to hokie lil man free out. Now can the Lil’ manfree get A cash advance to pay his ethics fines from the SO? Or does that only work for fridges?

  23. Linda says:

    Best thing is to get educated in the law. We were just advised by our lawyer that they cannot force you to do a field sobriety test. That test is done to create probable cause to arrest, and the courts have held that to be wrong/illegal, is what we were told. You need to research the law and/or contact your own lawyer.
    Palm Coast and Flagler County are not unique in the history of the world. It is our duty to be vigilant.
    Remember, absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you let it.

    And those that would sacrifice freedom for security, deserve neither. From one of our founding fathers.

  24. Sherry Epley says:

    Right on Linda! The 4th amendment to our constitution does have an exception for motor vehicles, BUT still requires proof of “probable cause” for search and seizure.

    However, after reading a recent article from one of our local deputies, I’m thinking it’s better to just avoid these random stops and not get into a debate with the law enforcement officers in this community. Some of them are not here to “protect and serve”.

  25. HonkeyDude says:

    How many…. how many???? Are we there yet?
    I hope every hard working stiff out there who’s boss thought it would he a good idea to have the company party at the beach….. and had to go or else…. made it home happy safe and BS free. Merry Xmas to all!

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