The concept of DUI checkpoints has always stood on shaky legal grounds.
Many civil rights groups have contested it on the grounds that it offers police the opportunity to profile who they choose to pull over and constitutes a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune brought to light an example of how civil liberties can be violated during the checkpoints. The article describes the Illinois suburb of Berwyn, where police have been racking up a suspiciously high amount of citations. Though Berwyn has a population of only 57,000, the suburb racked up the third highest number of citations in the state during the 2014 grant year—only Chicago and Calumet City issued more.
Why so many citations? Because the officers were trying to meet a quota imposed by law enforcement officials. In a department-wide email, Sgt. Chris Anisi outlined department plans to meet ticket quota goals: ”Failure to write a sufficient number of tickets will affect the officer's ability to work future grants,” he wrote. “Our goal is three tickets an hour.”
Ticket quotas have been abolished in Illinois, but the law allows for grant-funded policing initiatives. Under the IDOT campaign, money was granted to police departments to crack down on drunk drivers. The grants were intended to help cover the cost of police officers' overtime pay during night patrols. Funds given to the Berwyn police, however, weren't helping them catch many drunk or drugged drivers—only 1% of the 1,700 citations issued led to a DUI arrest!
Questionable DUI Checkpoints in Berwyn
One of the tactics used to meet the department's ticket quota was a “softer version” of a roadside check, in the words of Chief Jim Ritz of the Berwyn Police.
During most roadside checks, officers have strict and neutral criteria for choosing which cars to stop and check for driver's licenses, insurance, and equipment violations. The strict rules regarding these procedures were put in place to prevent officers from profiling drivers. In most roadside checks, officers pre-establish a random method of choosing which cars to pull over, like every third or fifth car in the line.
During the Berwyn checks, however, officers picked and chose which cars they pulled over for a secondary screening, deciding which drivers they would scrutinize for violations, and which names they would examine in the state records.
Not only was their methodology questionable—it also failed to comply with IDOT protocol. In an email to the Tribune, IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said the stops in Berwyn “would not have fit the definition of a flexible (roadside check), when we did support them.”
At one point during the last decade, IDOT protocol allowed for these “flexible roadside checks,” but did not allow for officers to impede traffic.
Despite ongoing arguments that DUI checkpoints violate Fourth Amendment rights—which prohibit unreasonable search and seizure—currently they are legal in the state of Illinois. If you are pulled over at one of these checkpoints—even if you believe that you are being profiled or that the officers in question are not following protocol in some way—it is best to cooperate courteously, providing the required information to the officer if asked.
Complying does not mean that you are admitting guilt, and if you are implicated for a DUI—especially if you believe your rights have been violated—it is critical you contact an experienced Illinois defense attorney as soon as possible. The earlier you start building your defense strategy, the better your chances at protecting your rights and receiving a positive outcome.
About The Author:
Howard J. Wise, the owner of the Illinois-based Law Offices of Howard J. Wise & Associates, is a criminal defense attorney who stands ready to assist clients in many different areas of the law, including criminal appeals, DUI, misdemeanors, traffic violations, and felonies. Mr. Wise began his legal career at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office as the assistant state attorney, where he was able to gain unique prosecutorial experience. He then transitioned to criminal defense and currently devotes his practice exclusively to protecting the rights of those accused of crime.