February 2012

"DUI Checkpoints are illegal in Rhode Island; however…"

DUI checkpoints continue to generate a lot of debate and discussion.

The latest skirmish involving DUI checkpoints comes from at least two states that are now reconsidering the legality and effectiveness of DUI checkpoints in the first place. In Utah, a bill will soon be considered by the state House of Representatives that would completely ban police from setting up DUI checkpoints, FOX 13 reports. Utah state Rep. David Butterfield, a sponsor of the bill, believes that DUI checkpoints violate citizens' rights against unreasonable searches. "The Utah Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have both held that they are constitutional under very narrow guidelines, but that's problematic," he said.

Similarly, WestIslip Patch reports, New Hampshire lawmakers are also considering a proposal to prohibit state police from setting up DUI checkpoints, again citing possible violations of citizen's civil rights. According to the Patch, New Hampshire lawmakers are concerned with citizens' "due process rights when they are arrested for other violations or their vehicles are searched."

Supporters of DUI checkpoints such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving argue that the tactic does improve public safety. They add that checkpoints do not violate civil rights because citizens are only detained briefly and strict guidelines govern what police may and may not do in connection with the checkpoints.

The current debate follows the discussion in many jurisdictions last year as to whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for people to spread the word that checkpoints are in place at a particular time and place. In May 2011, I wrote here about how several senators were pressing Apple, Google and Research In Motion to stop selling or otherwise making available smartphone apps that help drunk drivers avoid DUI checkpoints, asserting that such apps were "harmful to public safety."

In December 2011 I noted that police in Edmonton and Calgary, Canada, had begun asking the public to refrain from tweeting the locations of DUI checkpoints set up to catch drunk drivers, because they said doing so may put other motorists in danger. This position was not shared by police in Saskatoon, Canada, however, who took the opposite approach and even started alerting citizens themselves using Twitter as to when checkpoints were planned. The Saskatoon police believe that if people know police checkpoints are in place, they will think twice about drunk driving.

Tiverton, RI Criminal and DUI Defense

The Tiverton Police Department tends to remain the busiest police department in Rhode Island, in relation to their resources. While DUI arrests on Main Rd, East Rd. and Stafford Rd. are common, officers’ attention is usually more focused on serious crimes, which are frequently occurring in this area. Tiverton DUI and Criminal cases are prosecuted at the Newport County Courthouse on Thursdays, which is the day on which a representative from their solicitor’s office is present. The Tiverton Police are faced with numerous jurisdictional challenges, as they border Massachusetts to the North, and they are often times forced to pursue vehicles over the Sakonnet River Bridge into Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Tiverton Police Department was busier than usual in 2010. A recently released annual statistics report indicates that the department reached a 10-year high in arrests.

While there were decreases in
motor vehicle accidents and theft, Tiverton Police have reportedly increased arrests in every other statistical category. The report states that arrests totaled 655 in 2010, a 40 percent increase from 2009. Traffic-related citations jumped to 2,396 in 2010, or a 52 percent increase, and calls for service increased by 9 percent, to 19,132.

Total crimes against persons, which include assault, homicide and rape, increased 34 percent. Crimes against society, labeled “drugs and vice”, are up 102 percent. Police officials state that increase is a combination of breaks in investigations, more motor vehicle stops and "moving on contacts."

Being next to Massachusetts’ eighth largest city, Fall River, contributes to the overall increase in Tiverton's activity. The small town is second next to Newport for felony packages presented in
Second District Court.

Criminal Defense issues in Tiverton are best handled by an attorney familiar with the various personnel that handle these matters. Furthermore, a thorough knowledge of the local area is required in order to gauge a potential factual defense or jurisdictional challenge.

Portsmouth, RI Criminal - DUI Defense

Criminal DUI investigations are more than common within and around the region of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The area is characterized by narrow and dangerous roads, primarily consisting of East Main Road and West Main Road. Of course, the area serves as a major source of traffic to and from Newport, which tends to increase the number of potentially impaired motorists through the area. The State Police do not typically record their investigations either at the scene or back at the barracks. Although they enjoy the capability, the equipment is not generally utilized. Also, the general area presents unique difficulties in terms of finding appropriate places for suspects to perform standardized field sobriety testing. Some cases may involve situations where suspects are requested to perform standardized testing on a bridge or near the flow of oncoming traffic. This area also presents jurisdictional challenges for police, as they are often required to pursue a suspect into a neighboring town – Bristol, Tiverton or Middletown, Rhode Island.

In 2010, the Portsmouth Barracks fell under the command of Lieutenant Frank D. Sullivan III, a twenty-four (24) year veteran of the
Rhode Island State Police. The Portsmouth Barracks is located at 838 East Main Road in the Town of Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Barracks complement is comprised of; one (1) Lieutenant, one (1) Sergeant, two (2) Corporals and ten (10) Troopers. Vehicles assigned to the Barracks included fourteen (14) marked cruisers. These vehicles are utilized to patrol the combined jurisdiction of approximately 359 square miles.

The Portsmouth Patrols provide service in their support and patrol of the Pell Bridge, Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge, Mount Hope Bridge and Sakonnet Bridge.

During the 2010 calendar year, members of the Portsmouth Barracks issued 4,331 citations, arrested 323 subjects, handled 139 incidents and responded to 112 accidents. Patrol members arrested 121 subjects for Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs and/or Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test. These numbers are exclusive of arrests made by the
Portsmouth Town Police, which also constitute a high number of arrests. Having a local knowledge of the procedures and practices of this locality is essential to effectively defending the client’s legal interests.