Some Observations Regarding Drunk Driving Roadblocks in Illinois

As another year draws to a close, many Chicagoland police departments trade in their toy distribution centers for police dragnets that are designed to arrest as many DUI offenders as possible.

In every phase of operation, alcohol checkpoints have a controversial history in the nation as a whole, and in Illinois in particular. Statistically, Chicagoland checkpoints are marvelously inefficient. Here are some samples from a recent study:

  • Lake Zurich PD spent $50,988 for 76 roadblock arrests ($670 per arrest),
  • Lake County Sheriff’s Office spent $7,044 for seven DUI arrests ($1,006 per arrest), and the top prize for inefficiency goes to
  • Fox Lake PD, which spent $11,995 for four arrests ($2,999 per arrest).

Adding insult to injury, in each case, the checkpoint proportion netted about 10% or less of the DUI arrests in that jurisdiction.

Second, there is evidence that Illinois checkpoints, at least in the City of Chicago, are racially discriminatory. According to the Chicago Tribune, 84% of the Windy City’s roadblocks were in predominantly black or Latino neighborhoods, even though the vast majority of DUI offenders are white.

These observations are more than just trivia. If the department spent thousands of dollars operating a checkpoint in a place that was unlikely to result in a large number of arrests, jurors begin questioning the officer’s motives, and that’s the first step towards creating reasonable doubt.

Planning a DUI Roadblock in Illinois

Legally, roadside checkpoints allow officer to bypass the reasonable suspicion requirement and pull over vehicles based on nothing whatsoever other than their position in a line of cars. In exchange for this expansion of police power, officers lose the ability to use their gut instincts to interpret the facts that they observe.

Specifically, that means every aspect of the checkpoint must come from a supervisor. That means big-picture items, like location and hours of operation, down to minute details, such as the positioning of officers and chase cars. If the officers at the Chicago checkpoint have any decisionmaking authority over any issue, the checkpoint may be illegal under Michigan State Police v. Sitz and some other United States Supreme Court cases.

Checkpoint Operation in Chicago

The same thing applies in checkpoint operation. Commonly, traffic backs up unexpectedly and, to move things along faster, officers begin waving through more vehicles without stopping them. That is a nice gesture, but it is also illegal.

A few words about drivers’ rights at Illinois checkpoints. Motorists are required to provide certain documents for inspection, usually a drivers’ license and proof of insurance. Motorists are not required to answer questions and, in fact, do not even have to roll down their windows. Bear in mind that it is almost always unwise to antagonize officers, so exercise your rights carefully.

As a final note, in Illinois, it is legal to use a smartphone or other camera to record police activities as they exercise their official duties. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals essentially held that officers have no reasonable expectation of privacy in these situations.

Contact Aggressive Lawyers

DUI roadblocks are a controversial part of police work. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.

(image courtesy of Brendan Tate)

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