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Cinco de Mayo may bring an increase in California DUI enforcement

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This year, Cinco de Mayo falls on a weekend. Law enforcement agencies all across the state are planning a variety of DUI enforcement efforts to mark the holiday. DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols are common events in California, regardless of whether or not a holiday is involved. But Californians can usually expect local law enforcement agencies and the California Highway Patrol to step-up DUI enforcement details when a recognizable holiday approaches.

Police agencies often use a variety of tactics during stepped-up enforcement operation surrounding a holiday weekend. Checkpoints and saturation patrols may not be the only strategies that police may seek to employ to enforce California DUI laws. A story from the Bay Area highlights the type of unique strategies an agency may use in an effort to find drunk drivers.

The San Francisco Police plan to send officers out on motorcycles Friday night to look for drunk drivers. A captain with the police department says that, "Our Harley Davidson Road Kings have a lot of maneuverability advantages over regular patrol cars." Police say that most motorists do not notice the bikes until it is too late. The police captain says officers on a Harley "can ride right up to the driver's window and check for any signs of alcohol or drug impairment."

Most agencies, however, use more traditional saturation patrols or sobriety checkpoint operations to focus on drunk driving laws.

DUI checkpoints are somewhat unique in terms of constitutional law. In most situations, the Constitution requires that police have some basis to suspect a person of criminal activity before making a traffic stop. But the U.S. Supreme Court and California courts have ruled that law enforcement can constitutionally set up sobriety checkpoints to enforce drunk driving laws, as long as sufficient safeguards are followed in setting up the operations.

When a person is accused of drunk driving in Santa Cruz County based upon alleged evidence gathered at a sobriety checkpoint, an experienced DUI defense attorney can help in assessing whether the enforcement operation was conducted in compliance with constitutional protections, and whether law enforcement violated any rights of the person accused.

Source: SF Weekly, "Cops on Harleys to Sneak Attack Drunk Drivers," Erin Sherbert, May 2, 2012

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