H-SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Feb 22, 2011 9:17 PM by Ariel Wesler

Lawsuit claims DUI checkpoints are illegal


A lawsuit in Santa Barbara County is questioning the legality of DUI checkpoints. A Superior Court judge in Santa Barbara could decide to change the way police departments perform DUI checkpoints. A court date is set for Wednesday.

Santa Barbara Defense Attorney Darryl Genis says officers aren't following standard operating procedure when holding the checkpoints. Genis says both the CHP and Caltrans have put together model plans for closures and signage, which he believes officers in the "Avoid the 12" DUI campaign are not following.

Genis says police officers are required to get city council approval before shutting down a road for a DUI checkpoint. He says the same rules apply to a checkpoint as they would for a parade or city event. He also argues in most cases, drivers don't have enough warning. "They know the process, they just feel that they don't have to go through that process because it's a DUI checkpoint," said Genis.

Monika Biskup, Santa Maria resident, "I personally have a friend, his sister was killed by a drunk driver, so I think it's important to have DUI checks." Nationwide, there are 12 states where it is illegal for law enforcement to set up sobriety checkpoints. Opponents have argued of the thousands of drivers who pass through, on average, only a handful are actually arrested.

In 1990, the US Supreme Court ruled the public benefit from the checkpoints outweighed the infringement on search and seizure rights making them constitutional, as long as the proper rules were followed. The DA's office did not return our calls for comment but there is quite a bit at stake here.

Genis says if the court rules in his favor not only would officers have to comply with all rules, the judge could dismiss all DUI cases where law enforcement did not follow the proper procedures. Lompoc is holding a DUI checkpoint this weekend.

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