Sobriety checkpoints: How they work

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Photo: Video by tmj4.com

Sobriety checkpoints: How they work

By Tom Murray. CREATED May 9, 2014

CHICAGO - TODAY'S TMJ4 connected with Cook County Sheriff's Police on the Friday before St. Patrick's Day in Ford Heights, just south of Chicago.

Officers conducted what the agency calls a roadside safety checkpoint. 
 
Traffic is narrowed to a single lane.  Officers waved every fifth car into a parking lot. With a valid license, insurance and no sign of impairment, drivers are back on their way in a few minutes.

One driver said, "I don't think it's a problem. A little inconvenient, but it's not bad."

If there is anything suspicious, the car goes to a row of waiting squads for a traffic stop.

When one driver rolled down her window, officers smelled marijuana. They searched the car and everyone inside. 
 
Sometimes, officers catch a lot of drunk drivers. This was not one of those nights.

"You've been out here for awhile," Lt. David Capelli told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray.  "You've seen a lot of the operation. Tonight, we haven't seen a lot of impairment."

At the March 14 checkpoint, officers conducted 49 traffic stops.  They made five arrests; one for driving under the influence of drugs and four for driving on a revoked/suspended license.  The sheriff's office issued 20 citations for driving without car insurance.
 
In Cook County, the sheriff's office does checkpoints several times a year.  They are almost always on a weekend and usually around a holiday.
 
Brookfield criminal defense attorney Jerome Buting said checkpoints are wrong for Wisconsin
 
"They really don't nail that many people who are under the influence," Buting said.  "It's a great inconvenience and it's an intrusion on your Fourth Amendment rights if it's not done right."

There has been limited support from both political sides.

Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) says he will bring up a measure to allow checkpoints in Wisconsin and provide state aid to pay overtime to officers who work those enhanced enforcement efforts.

"In the states that have enforcement zones, people think twice about drinking and driving," Carpenter said.  "People, in the back of their minds, think there's a very low chance they'll get stopped for drunk driving. We have to change those odds to get people to know if they go out and drink and drive, they're going to be caught."

Illinois is the only neighboring state where sobriety checkpoints are legal. They are not allowed in Michigan, Iowa or Minnesota.

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