The Missouri legislature is currently weighing the possibility of cutting the number of DUI checkpoints in the state, raising questions about the overall efficacy-to-cost ratio of this controversial anti-DUI measure. A recent proposal would see fewer checkpoints in the state, as no money in the new state budget would be allocated to them. This does not indicate a more lax disposition toward drunken driving in the state, rather lawmakers seem to be calling for a change in how jurisdictions ought to approach them. State Representative Scott Fitzpatrick has suggested that state dollars would be better spent on getting more officers on the road, challenging the notion of concentrating officers in one spot in the manner of a DUI checkpoint. “It's a better use of money and it saves more lives by getting more drunk drivers off the road and it does so at a lower cost, so from a budgeting perspective it's hard to argue in any way that checkpoints are the more effective method than saturation patrols,” Fitzpatrick told a St. Louis news outlet.
The proof is in the numbers. According to MoDOT, over 3,000 arrests were made in an unspecified jurisdiction between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, from regular patrolling, costing approximately $700 per arrest. By contrast, 1,200 arrests were made at DUI checkpoints in the same jurisdiction at a cost of more than $1000 per arrest.
DUI checkpoints have long been a source of legal contention, with various camps adopting a different perspective toward them. They remain legal in most states, while a handful have outlawed them on their state's constitutional grounds. Checkpoints have had a tense relationship with the fourth amendment, which affirms
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The invasion of privacy inherent to checkpoints was ultimately characterized as “minimal” by Supreme Court justices, who sanctioned them.
A Chicago Tribune article examined the issue of checkpoint efficiency in 2015. While jurisdictions frequently accepted federal grants to conduct roadside checkpoints in the state, the Tribune held that the results of these efforts were “modest” at best, especially in proportion to their overall cost. "The implicit theory is that local police departments certainly would not keep taking public money to pay for safety programs that don't work.” Just 12% of the 7,672 citations issued by Waukegan, Illinois police were for DUI. The remaining citations were for license violations, insurance lapses, unbuckled safety belts and burnt taillights. The cost per DUI arrest varies based on the state and jurisdiction, but there seems to be an overarching trend of an exorbitant cost-per-DUI, with a relatively low citation rate.
While advocates of checkpoints can still point to the thousands of arrests made annually to commend the measure, the overall figures beg the question - are DUI checkpoints worth it? Are state budgets and federal grants better funneled to saturation patrols and saturation patrols only? With the federal government still doling out grant money for checkpoints and jurisdictions eagerly lapping them up, perhaps it is time to take a long hard look at the efficiency of the contested DUI checkpoint.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Cobb County, the best step you can take is securing a skilled and aggressive legal representative. Contact Cobb County DUI attorney Richard Lawson for a free consultation.