When Checkpoints Do Not Add Up

Addison officials have yet to release any statistics from a March 2016 DUI checkpoint, but if it is typical of other such operations in Chicagoland, the statistics may not be worth posting.

Officers were stationed at the checkpoint near the intersection of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Lake Street from 9 p.m. on March 25 to 1 a.m. on March 26. In addition to driving sobriety, police inspected drivers’ licenses, proof of insurance, and other driving paperwork while looking for possible safety violations.

The number of alcohol-related crashes that involved a driver with a BAC of .08 or above has declined from just over 18,000 per year in 1985 to roughly 10,000 in 2013.

Checkpoints in Suburban Chicago

Mostly due to the enormous cost involved and an unavailability of state funds, roadside checkpoints are not nearly as common as they were ten years ago. There is also a tremendous legal burden, a point that is examined below.

Lake County has come under fire recently for the high cost of DUI checkpoints, particularly when viewed from a cost-per-arrest standpoint. Some figures include:

  • Lake County Sheriff: $1,006 per arrest,
  • Lake Zurich: $1,417 per arrest,
  • South Barrington: $1,630 per arrest, and
  • Fox Lake: $2,999 per arrest.

In practical terms, these numbers often translate to tremendous pressure on street officers. Since a checkpoint may well cost thousands of dollars, when considering officer overtime, equipment, and other expenses, officers sometimes feel compelled to make arrests and issue citations in borderline cases, in order to improve the statistics. These borderline arrests are, as a general rule, easier to defend in court.

Checkpoint Law

Despite ongoing controversy about their legality, since officers do not need reasonable suspicion to stop vehicles in these situations, checkpoints remain legal in 38 states, including Illinois. When the United States Supreme Court approved the practice in 1990, it essentially adopted a series of requirements articulated by the California Supreme Court in Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987). Although individual jurisdictions may establish their own guidelines, these rules usually fall along the lines of:

  • Advanced Publicity: The publicity must normally be calculated to draw attention, and so a post of the department’s Facebook page may be insufficient.
  • Limited Officer Discretion: An officer cannot let one car pass with only a cursory glance and grill the next driver because “something doesn’t look right.”
  • Reasonable Location: A freeway off-ramp may be a good place to pull over a large number of vehicles, but it is a poor location for a roadside checkpoint.
  • Limited Duration: There is no hard-and-fast rule, but anything over one minute is arguably too long for a “license and registration please” inspection.

A deficiency in any area may cause the judge to invalidate the checkpoint and therefore suppress the stop.

Contact Aggressive Attorneys

DUI cases which involve a sobriety checkpoint introduce a host of legal and factual questions. For prompt assistance in this matter, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Schaumburg from Glasgow & Olsson. We routinely handle cases throughout Chicagoland.

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