By on September 15, 2009

Got a heads-up from the PR Newswire re: Florida DUI Attorney John Musca. Mr. Musca wants you to know that he’s fighting for your (i.e., his clients’) constitutionally-guaranteed rights and freedoms. Musca’s press release trumpets the dismissal of a recent DUI case, where a careful reading of the law saved his client’s pickled bacon. NB: if the Florida po-po let you go after three minutes, remember: even though you’ve only got one minute to save the world, please observe all posted speed limits.

The state of Florida concedes that DUI checkpoints are constitutional and valid. The Supreme Court acknowledges that DUI checkpoints do in fact constitute a “seizure” relative to the Fourth Amendment yet are constitutionally acceptable with evident effectiveness and minimal intrusion. Hence the three minute rule where every vehicle that enters a designated checkpoint site cannot be detained in traffic for more than three minutes. In the event of exceeding the three minute time allowed, the officer in charge must temporarily suspend the diversion of vehicles into the checkpoint lanes and begin a systematic selection of vehicles to be stopped at the discretion of the checkpoint commander. Vehicles will then proceed back into the checkpoint lanes when the period becomes less than three minutes.

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23 Comments on “Florida DUI Checkpoints: The Three-Minute Rule...”


  • avatar
    vento97

    Now boys and girls, repeat after me (several times)

    War is Peace
    Ignorance is Strength
    Freedom is Slavery

  • avatar
    imag

    They had one of these outside my house on Labor Day weekend. My wife and I went out to watch for a bit out of curiousity, and it creeped both of us out.

    They’ve got lights, roadblocks, and a ton of cops stopping everyone in the quiet; it felt like what I imagine East Berlin to have been like 20 years ago. No one could even complain without being fingered for the testing trailer. Motorcycle cops were there waiting for anyone who saw the gauntlet and tried to take a side street.

    I realize DUIs are a major problem, and I don’t drink at all myself, but it just doesn’t feel like the safety reduction is worth the liberty reduction to me.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    They have had these in Ontario for years. Personally, I don’t really see the issue: you’re stopped for a few minutes, they sniff your breath, get you to blow into a tube and then you drive on.

    Assuming you’re not drinking and subsequently driving**, there’s nothing at all to be concerned about. They may not be completely effective, but putting them at bottlenecks (or outside “entertainment districts) seems to keep drunks off the road.

    ** or swishing and spitting with 200-proof medical-supply alcohol just to be a prick, but that’s another story.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Assuming you’re not drinking and subsequently driving**, there’s nothing at all to be concerned about.

    In the US we have a document formerly known as the Bill of Rights. In this document there are enumerations of protections that are not granted by the government, but rather exist in their own right and are merely being restated so that the government doesn’t get any funny ideas. Of course this document was shredded in the ’80s in the name of the drug war and combating drunk driving, and no longer has any meaning.

  • avatar

    Whatever you do, if stuck in one of these checkpoints, is use the word ‘Gestapo’too loudly. They get pissed. Really, REALLY, pissed.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Uhhmn, anybody know what one of these dog and pony shows costs the local taxpayers? Looks ‘spensive.

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    If ignorant a-holes would stop drinking and driving, causing property damage and loss of life in the process, this excuse could not be used to commit an incursion on liberties.

    Blame the root cause.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I understand that Florida is changing its motto from “the Sunshine State” to the “vere are your papers” state.

  • avatar
    imag

    Greenblood: do you understand anything about civil liberties? You do realize that *innocent* people get searched in these things too, right?

    By your proposed logic, until every person on earth stops doing anything hazardous, the government should be able to enter your home, your personal records, and your body at any time to make sure you aren’t one of those bad people.

    By the same logic, it’s the wife who’s at fault when she is beaten to death for insubordination.

    That logic is what gets us all taking off our shoes at the airport like sheep, despite the fact that we’re far more likely to die from a car crash on the way to the airport than in flight.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    By your proposed logic, until every person on earth stops doing anything hazardous, the government should be able to enter your home, your personal records, and your body at any time to make sure you aren’t one of those bad people.

    No, because there’s a huge difference in degree here. Stopping cars during long weekends on a bottleneck road, sniffing the driver’s breath, asking a few simple questions and then—possibly—breathalyzing them before waving them on is a long ways from ECHELON.

    It’s not a slippery slope either: this isn’t in the same league as warrantless wiretapping or multidepartmental ID cards. It’s about as nefarious as a speed trap, and considerably less so than how everyone and their kid asking you for your SSN. Canadians have had this program in place for at least eighteen years and we’re not subject to two-way screens everywhere.

    By the same logic, it’s the wife who’s at fault when she is beaten to death for insubordination.

    It’s not the same logic. Not at all.

    That logic is what gets us all taking off our shoes at the airport like sheep, despite the fact that we’re far more likely to die from a car crash on the way to the airport than in flight.

    This is actually true: it is pretty much the same as a security checkpoint in an airport. And yes, these are a little extreme sometimes (eg, the whole “no liquids” thing. The difference is it’s cheaper and safer to security-scan people at an airport to ensure safety, rather than have armed air marshals on every flight, just as it’s cheaper and safer to post drunkstops on long weekends than it is to hope you see someone driving erratically.

    All that happens to innocent people at one of these is that they get their breath sniffed and perhaps asked some stupid questions. They’re hardly being loaded onto boxcars.

  • avatar

    greenb1ood:

    The reason these elaborate measures are required is because fewer people are drinking then driving. Because fewer people are drinking then driving the fines, fees, “responsibility fees” must be continuously raised to keep that sweet manna flowing into the coffers of the municipality. In theory, anyway.

    Come on down to the Austin TX entertainment district where you can now walk into any restaurant on Saturday night and get a table within ten minutes. It is a very successful way to keep people at home. Drinking or not, it is something no one wants to endure.

  • avatar

    Oh yes, and when the police simply refuse to enforce the three minute rule?

    What happens? Other than the complainant becoming a target for “police activity”?

  • avatar
    imag

    psarhjinian: The difference between this and a speed trap is that the people being pulled over at a speed trap are actually, you know, speeding – that is, breaking the law. The majority of people stopped at a DUI checkpoint are being subject to search, guilty or not.

    As for the slippery slope: people in the UK have started to accept the idea that CCTV in public places is okay. After all, only criminals mind being watched, right? Sounds good to some, until you hear of the rampant abuse by the watchers, coupled with the fact that those cameras aren’t reducing crime one bit (turns out that people who mug others don’t really think too long-term – go figure). This means that Britishers aren’t any more safe than they were before and they just sold out their ability to move anonymously. The latter is a right our constitution’s drafters held very dear; I daresay that if our country’s founders could have been well tracked by the British, there might not be a US of A now.

    People can argue that driving is a privilege not a right, but that’s how our rights are eroded. Many things can look like safety issues that we need to solve. I’d rather accept that there is some risk in life and try to preserve the quality of it, rather than trying to capture every guilty person at the expense of everyone else.

  • avatar
    msquare

    Hate checkpoints of any kind. Though up here in New York, answering “no” to the first question “Did you have anything to drink tonight?” is usually very effective in keeping you on your way. The burden of proof is on them, not you, and you didn’t swear on a Bible beforehand.

    Another trick: Trying to pin a false traffic violation on you as an excuse for stopping you. Happened to me. The NYPD cop said I had gone over a double yellow line on one of the few Manhattan streets that have them, which I countered couldn’t be done without hitting heavy oncoming traffic, in which case he would be at a nasty accident scene and not a traffic stop.

    He then asked me if I had been drinking, which I hadn’t. After saying “no” he handed me back my license and reg and took off without saying a word. He also did a good job of standing back behind me so I couldn’t get a good look at his name and badge number.

    The only consolation I get out of any of this is that most cops hate this kind of duty. Being sympathetic to that can’t hurt in most cases.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The majority of people stopped at a DUI checkpoint are being subject to search, guilty or not.

    No, they’re not. Sniffing your breath and asking you a question or two is not a “search” in the linguistic or legal sense of the word. Calling it “seizure” baffles the mind. “Inconvenience” is probably the most accurate.

    I’ll agree that there are situations where surveillance has gone overboard, and the proliferation of CCTVs in the UK that you cite is such an example because there’s so much opportunity for scope creep and abuse. That doesn’t happen here. Heck, if it did, there are existing laws about what the police can and can’t do if you’re randomly pulled over and precedent is quite well-established

    This is not even in the same league. It’s not even the same sport: it’s an entirely feasible way to get drunks off the road and not some kind of “May I zee your paperz pliz?” fascist invasion. The problem people have is the optics of it: several cruisers, lights, police waving cars down as they pass, etc, etc. It looks dramatic, but that’s so that people who are drunk or tired can spot it a long way away in dim light and don’t plow into the stop at night.

    I’ve been stopped at these at least once or twice a year since I got my license. I never spent more than a minute or two and the officers were always friendly, saving the time I decided to be a dick and swish with medical alcohol before a stop to see what would happen (disclaimer: I was nineteen at the time; all they did was breathalyzer me a few times and let me go). I really have trouble getting worked up about this, not when I get more trouble at border crossings, and significantly more if I set off the shoplifting alarm at HMV.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Come on down to the Austin TX entertainment district where you can now walk into any restaurant on Saturday night and get a table within ten minutes. It is a very successful way to keep people at home. Drinking or not, it is something no one wants to endure.

    The recession might not have anything to do with that, would it?

    If police checkpoints are keeping people who go out, drink and subsequently drive off the road by virtue of dissuading them, I’d say they’re working.

  • avatar
    imag

    psarhjinian: Consider me boggled as well; where did I write the word “seizure”? I wrote “search” because it’s what I witnessed:

    - People were not in and out in two minutes. They were detained for at least 15 minutes.

    - Anyone who took any side street in advance of the checkpoint were chased down and pulled over, presumably because they might have been trying to evade the checkpoint (despite the fact that people live up those other streets).

    - The breathalyzers were not in hand with the police – the cops pulled people out on whatever grounds they chose and made them park their cars and go to a trailer to be tested.

    I call that systematic search of innocent people, and I don’t think it’s warranted by the fact that there are guilty people somewhere in the mix. I’m sorry, we just disagree.

  • avatar

    We’ve had booze buses in Australia for 30+ years. I get breathalyzed once or twice a year. Unless they’re going to roadside drug test me – which takes about 10-15 minutes – you’re on your way in 30 seconds. I don’t see what the problem is. But then we don’t stuff around with smelling the breath or asking tons of questions. It’s “blow here until I say stop”, and that’s about it.

    If any of our police brethren are reading – this is a question I had whilst I lived in the USA – can you skip the questions and walking the line and go directly to the breathalyzer? Do most cruisers have one?

    I don’t drink as I’m diabetic and would prefer to skip the crap and cut to the mustard. It’d be nice to know if I’m pulled over in the future.

    Andrew

  • avatar
    KGrGunMan

    They had a check point near me, they got 2 people drunk driving, 1 person driving on drugs and 54 fix it tickets(no front plate, tinted windows)the min. is $15 if you fix it, thats $810 if everyone fixes it. the max if they don’t fix it is $125 if they pay on time, thats $6750. and if people start paying late, it gets crazy at $500 per ticket. 54 fix it tickets means >$810 and <$27000 for one night of fix-it’s

    The fix it tickets make the money and thats what it’s all about, right?

  • avatar
    Detroit Todd

    These “checkpoints” are Constitutionally prohibited in Michigan. The police must cite a reason for pulling you over.

    We also do not have toll roads here. We pay taxes to fund our roads.

    Incidentally, Michigan was also the first English-speaking territory in the world to outlaw capital punishment, in 1846. (It seems they realized, way back then, that the system is fallible.)

    All that said, Michigan has some of the harshest penalties in the country for drunk driving. It’s really not a good idea to do it anywhere, but especially not here.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Sniffing your breath and asking you a question or two is not a “search” in the linguistic or legal sense of the word. Calling it “seizure” baffles the mind. “Inconvenience” is probably the most accurate.

    No offense, but given that you aren’t an American, I find it odd that you would take such a passionate interest in US constitutional law. It’s a different country from yours, and isn’t subject to the same laws and regulations nor the same body of case law as where you are, so your points of reference aren’t always going to match.

    The US Supreme Court has already ruled that a traffic stop is a “seizure” per the Fourth Amendment, so your attempt to trivialize a stop without cause is inaccurate from a US perspective.

    Unfortunately, and without much of a sound legal rationale, in my opinion, the Supreme Court has also decided that sobriety checkpoints are legal, despite the fact that detentions without probable cause are generally not permitted by the Fourth Amendment. Still, they are unconstitutional per several state constitutions, so that ruling does not apply everywhere in the US.

    Interestingly enough, it is generally leftish civil liberties groups such as the ACLU that fight against these the hardest, while it’s the hardcore conservatives who have served on the Supreme Court such as Scalia and Rehnquist who have seen fit to ignore the Constitution when they think it serves a higher purpose that they just happen to like. You might want to consider the company you’re keeping on this one.

  • avatar
    benders

    They did one of these in my area a few weeks back. Nailed a few people for expired registration. That’s it. No DUI’s.

    And I thought the Supreme Court ruled that the act of turning away from a checkpoint was not reason enough for the police to pull you over?

  • avatar
    imag

    I just had to post this. Say it can’t happen here:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009873854_medina16m.html


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