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For the first time in my life I had to go thru a police check point


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There I was, just as innocent as can be, driving my son to his math tutor, as I have done on a bi weekly basis for the last 8 months and lo and behold there were all these police cars and I had to stop and show my drivers license before I could go thru. They didn't pull me over, but the van in front of me was as were two other cars. A sobriety check at 1:30 in the afternoon? In the middle of suburbia? What gives? Actually the spot was just around the corner from a mosque, but I don't know if that had a thing to do with it.

 

I have just never experienced this before.

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I've been stopped for many license checks over the years.  All times of the day, although the middle part of the day seems most common.  I assume it's a slow time for LEOs -- no rush hour traffic accidents, no night time crime, etc.  So they do routine license checks.  I've encountered them everywhere from interstate exit ramps to rural back roads.  They're not just looking for people driving under the influence.  They're looking for people driving with expired licenses or tags.  Most are just routine, but it's also possible they were looking for someone in particular.

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I've been through several as well, all in the middle of the day. They look for everything - tags, license, inspection, drunk driving, etc.. Many people who have to pull over to the side have to do so because they can't find their registration and need to empty out their glove compartment and the officers don't want traffic held up. I've also seen people try to avoid the traffic stop by turning around - they go after them with lights & sirens. I always ask the officer if they are looking for someone in particular or if there's anything I need to be aware of and they have always told me "no." 

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 I always ask the officer if they are looking for someone in particular or if there's anything I need to be aware of and they have always told me "no." 

 

Police officer friend has told me that they'll say "no" even if they are looking for someone in particular...... they don't want anyone broadcasting what they are looking for.........

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Actually, we have had several cases recently of afternoon DUI's, so apparently it is a thing. In one case the mom crashed after picking up her son from middle school and he was killed. Her blood alcohol level was unbelievably high.

 

We have checkpoints outside my neighborhood all the time, usually in the mid-afternoon. We don't have much crime in our town, so I've always assumed it was just a way to fill time and write a few extra tickets for expired registration or lapsed insurance. We also have a lot of transplants in this area, and a surprising number of people drive around for years with their expired out-of-state tags instead of going into the dmv to register their cars. Tickets are a great way to solve that problem. 

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They are fairly common in one township around me.  Typically they are looking for expired registration and inspection on vehicles.  I think it's a revenue stream for this specific township. :)

I didn't know you lived near me.  Once a month and it is set up near the elementary school.  

 

License and reg checks are what they do here.  

Edited by itsheresomewhere
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Fairly common here as well. The first I went through I had let my drivers license expire over two years before. No reason just never renewed. Anyway I explained to the officer that it was expired but I had never had one violation in all my years of driving fully expecting a ticket. Then the person in front of me sped off. The po jumped on his motorcycle to chase him and when the new officer asked if he had taken care of me, I said yes sir. He said have a good day and went to next in line. I immediately drove to my mom's so she could drive me to renew my license that day. I had to wait on the officers later that day at the restaurant where I worked.

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I experienced this frequently in war zones, Russia, and Uzbekistan.

 

I hear they are big in Arizona and Texas.

 

I should have said that I hadn't heard of it in the US - and most specifically in our state.    I did go through police checkpoints in the Philippines - complete with soldiers/police with automatic weapons trained on you.  But then the security guards at the large Manila mall had sawed-off shotguns and automatic weapons as well. 

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I've been through them. Sobriety checkpoints, general looking for fugitives.

 

The first time I was 17. There had been a serial rapist and the police were getting nowhere. At that checkpoint they were stopping every vehicle and generally educating drivers with drawings and descriptions.

 

This is a high COL suburb.

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Here they are set up to get undocumented immigrants. They are often set up outside of schools with large Hispanic populations on nights when there are events at the schools. It makes it hard to get anyone to come to school events.

 

That is really unfortunate that law enforcement chooses to do that.  

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Here's a good article on what sorts of checkpoint stops can be conducted. Some states may disallow more, and some may be used as pretense for other purposes, but this is a good summary of the Constitutional limitations on police checkpoints:

 

http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=234&issue_id=32004

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Fairly common in the West where I grew up and went to school. Usually it was a spot check of license/registration, but the state penitentiary wasn't far from the interstate, and periodically there were would be an escape.

 

After I moved east to more metropolitan areas, I've never seen one except for once on the subway when they were checking ID's. Probably too much traffic (LOL)!

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I'm 43. I've heard of this exactly once when some friends moved to another state and posted on FB about being at a police checkpoint. I remember thinking, "Is that legal in America?!" That was the first and last time I've heard of this. I was just so sure it wasn't legal. So in some places this is actually common?

 

It sounds so "Show me your papers," (in a thick German or Russian accent.). I just never knew the police could stop you for no reason and look over your car like that.

 

I'm not saying I don't believe you. I just didn't know.

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I should have said that I hadn't heard of it in the US - and most specifically in our state. I did go through police checkpoints in the Philippines - complete with soldiers/police with automatic weapons trained on you. But then the security guards at the large Manila mall had sawed-off shotguns and automatic weapons as well.

Police here have guns. I never knew what stopped people here from doing it. To me police checkpoints are the epitome of the police state.

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So, maybe I am a bit cynical...but check the budget situation in your city. Sobriety checkpoints can generate more than a bit of cash by targeting both illegal and intoxicated drivers. Impounded cars, fines, etc., can all generate money...and seemingly boost the 'safety' numbers. Not to mention add extra manpower hours for police and support personel!

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What has stopped them from doing it in our state is that our state supreme court has ruled that it violates our state constitution and laws to conduct sobriety checkpoints.

I'm surprised they're not illegal in more states actually.

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I've been through several.  They always set them up during holiday weekends, especially Memorial Day, Labor Day, 4th of July -- those that include picnics, BBQs, and beer.  I've never seen one on a regular old Wednesday afternoon.

 

I was caught once without current proof of insurance.  We had insurance, but the card in the car was expired.  It was a pain to go to the courthouse, and it was excused, but the inconvenience made me a lot more careful from then on.

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I used to work with cops, they are often looking for lapsed insurance, people with expired licenses, uninspected vehicles, blown tail lights etc.

 

It nets the county a pretty penny when they do it, which makes it worth the time.

 

It is also a way to give LE a way to prove that they need a particular number of officers working during certain hours etc. It takes a lot of manpower.

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Dh has been stopped at 2 checkpoints in the 12 years I've known him.

 

The night I finally drove into a checkpoint was the day we closed on our house and dd had an accident requiring surgery. I was dropping ds off at Grandma's for the night and I was stressed to the max. I had to get out and get my license out of the cargo area because I tossed my purse in there with ds's bag. I was so flustered and embarrassed at all the random junk in the car from moving. Uggh. Not good.

 

All the officers were super nice though. I think they could tell I was on the brink of a Mommy meltdown. :D

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I'm 43. I've heard of this exactly once when some friends moved to another state and posted on FB about being at a police checkpoint. I remember thinking, "Is that legal in America?!" That was the first and last time I've heard of this. I was just so sure it wasn't legal. So in some places this is actually common?

 

It sounds so "Show me your papers," (in a thick German or Russian accent.). I just never knew the police could stop you for no reason and look over your car like that.

 

I'm not saying I don't believe you. I just didn't know.

 

Well, they aren't stopping you for no reason. They are stopping you to verify you have a driver's license and the appropriate auto registration paperwork. The key is that they stop everyone within a designated area and at a designated time. They can't pick and choose which cars to stop - they stop them all. To pick and choose opens up the possibility of discrimination. So, if you are going down Main Street between 2:00 - 2:30 pm a given day, you will be stopped. If you don't stop or try to turn around, it's considered evasion (I think that's the term, but I'm not certain) and they will send a police car after you. If you behave suspiciously (act drunk, for example), they can have you pull over and give you a DUI test. The stops are actually very quick. Nothing is written down, they just verify names, dates and that  the vehicle ID number on your car  and your tag number matches the information on your registration form. I'm stopped every 12-18 months, so they don't happen very frequently. I think I've been stopped in two or three different locations. It's not really a big deal.

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Well, they aren't stopping you for no reason. They are stopping you to verify you have a driver's license and the appropriate auto registration paperwork. The key is that they stop everyone within a designated area and at a designated time. They can't pick and choose which cars to stop - they stop them all. To pick and choose opens up the possibility of discrimination. So, if you are going down Main Street between 2:00 - 2:30 pm a given day, you will be stopped. If you don't stop or try to turn around, it's considered evasion (I think that's the term, but I'm not certain) and they will send a police car after you. If you behave suspiciously (act drunk, for example), they can have you pull over and give you a DUI test. The stops are actually very quick. Nothing is written down, they just verify names, dates and that  the vehicle ID number on your car  and your tag number matches the information on your registration form. I'm stopped every 12-18 months, so they don't happen very frequently. I think I've been stopped in two or three different locations. It's not really a big deal.

 

Certainly, everyone is better than random.

 

It's still creepy to me. It reminds me of Russia.

 

Everyone has good reasons.

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We've been through a bunch over the years - most frequently when driving near a border (Mexico or Canada) and it's actually a Border Patrol checkpoint looking for people crossing illegally or contraband.

 

Around here we get them for sobriety (these are announced in the paper ahead of time) and there's always at least one at some point on my way to school where they're mainly looking for seatbelt use.  I think our school sets that one up.  That one is not announced and doesn't check for license, etc. just seatbelts.

 

Once we were stopped at one and aren't really sure what they were looking for.  I actually think they were looking for a person as it was just a quick check inside - nothing more.

 

Checks like this don't bother me.  They're just doing their job and if they catch a drunk driver or two - good riddance!  If they get extra $$, that's less that needs to come from taxpayers in general.

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I tried to research them in my state and their legality, but my eyes couldn't take looking at a computer screen any longer and then I had to go do more immediately necessary stuff.  It kind of reminds me of Russia too.  Feels like living in a military state.  But I guess that is the way things are going these days.  Now it seems to be the norm.  Water slowly warming up and frogs and all that!  

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I tried to research them in my state and their legality, but my eyes couldn't take looking at a computer screen any longer and then I had to go do more immediately necessary stuff.  It kind of reminds me of Russia too.  Feels like living in a military state.  But I guess that is the way things are going these days.  Now it seems to be the norm.  Water slowly warming up and frogs and all that!  

 

I'm 53, and I never remember a time there weren't random license checks here.  So it's not exactly a "these days" kind of thing.

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I've never actually been through one, but maybe they set up sobriety checks in areas where there are more likely to be people driving impaired? I don't drive much, though, and I live in the middle of nowhere. Not much crime here, but there are certain stretches of the road where they're really big on speeding.

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re 4th Amendment/Constitutional limits on checkpoints:

Here's a good article on what sorts of checkpoint stops can be conducted. Some states may disallow more, and some may be used as pretense for other purposes, but this is a good summary of the Constitutional limitations on police checkpoints:

 

http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=234&issue_id=32004

Thanks for this.  The part addressing license/insurance checks certainly seems to suggest that so long as all cars are stopped (as opposed to LEO picking and choosing which ones are stopped), such stops are deemed Constitutional:

 

 

Driver's License Checkpoints

The Fourth Amendment's reasonableness standard prohibits officers from randomly stopping vehicles to check driver's licenses and registration.5 In Delaware v. Prouse, a patrolman stopped a vehicle without reasonable suspicion to check the driver's license and registration. He seized marijuana in plain view. Addressing the stop's constitutionality, the Court noted that the public interest in ensuing that motorists are licensed and cars are registered justified the checkpoint's slight intrusion on motorists. In Prouse, however, the officer had unbridled discretion regarding which cars to stop, making the checkpoint unconstitutional. By contrast, license checkpoints conducted in a systematic, predesignated manner are constitutional.
 

(and as you pointed out elsewhere, driving is different, a privilege rather than a right, than ID checkpoints / random stops for people walking or biking)

 

 

re checkpoints evolving into mechanisms for revenue generation:

I used to work with cops, they are often looking for lapsed insurance, people with expired licenses, uninspected vehicles, blown tail lights etc.

 

It nets the county a pretty penny when they do it, which makes it worth the time.

 

It is also a way to give LE a way to prove that they need a particular number of officers working during certain hours etc. It takes a lot of manpower.

Yes, this is real concern.  

 

I am personally troubled by the unintended incentives created when any municipality or LEO force starts depending on ticket fees to generate the revenue to support their own salaries (what could possibly go wrong?).  The data uncovered by the DOJ Ferguson report is a wake-up call to just how great those dangers really are.

 

 

 

Well, they aren't stopping you for no reason. They are stopping you to verify you have a driver's license and the appropriate auto registration paperwork. The key is that they stop everyone within a designated area and at a designated time. They can't pick and choose which cars to stop - they stop them all. To pick and choose opens up the possibility of discrimination. So, if you are going down Main Street between 2:00 - 2:30 pm a given day, you will be stopped. If you don't stop or try to turn around, it's considered evasion (I think that's the term, but I'm not certain) and they will send a police car after you. If you behave suspiciously (act drunk, for example), they can have you pull over and give you a DUI test. The stops are actually very quick. Nothing is written down, they just verify names, dates and that  the vehicle ID number on your car  and your tag number matches the information on your registration form. I'm stopped every 12-18 months, so they don't happen very frequently. I think I've been stopped in two or three different locations. It's not really a big deal.

I agree that license checkpoints are not "for no reason," and I certainly agree that there is a public interest in ensuring that drivers are licensed and insured and vehicles are registered.

 

The concerns are two-fold: 1) that once the vehicle is stopped, LEOs facing revenue generation pressures will be (quite rationally) motivated to "fish" for reasons to issue tickets beyond the license/insurance check; and 2) there is strong evidence that in at least some municipalities, such "fishing expeditions" have demonstrated significant racial bias.

 

I end up quite conflicted.  Both concerns would I suppose be addressed by ordinances that restricted the ticket fine revenues that were permissible in such stops for reasons other than the original license/registration reasons.

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I'm 53, and I never remember a time there weren't random license checks here.  So it's not exactly a "these days" kind of thing.

Ah!  Well, I am 55 and have been driving since I was 16 and have never encountered one until now.  So you can see why I got the impression!  I must live in a rarified world.  LOL.  

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I've been stopped at quite a number of police check points over the years. More  in times past than recently. I think all but one was middle of day. I too assume that it is a time when they have time to be doing that, and maybe also the light is convenient.  Day time also gives a less "scary" feeling than being stopped like that at night when it is dark, which happened to me once and was sort of creepy feeling.

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I've been through one in my life, maybe 15 years ago, leaving my grandparents' house on a major holiday. I don't remember exactly, dh was driving, but I think the officer just asked if dh had been drinking, he answered no, and that was it. A little unnerving and strange in the middle of nowhere. Never happened again, anywhere I've driven in 26 years.

 

We did have officers peek in our car as we approached the border once, asking if anyone had requested a ride, but they were searching for prison escapees at the time, so we expected that.

 

BTW, my home state does not allow its police officers to enquire about a person's immigration status. As state police, it is not their job to enforce federal immigration laws, so they don't. I believe it was an attempt to help all residents feel at ease going to the police for assistance when needed.

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We have them all the time here in my small town in Virginia. They are just license checks. No idea why. They often set up right as you come out of my private road, so I've had times when they would check me on the way out, then wave me through on the way back in because they recognized me. 

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I been driven through one as a passenger but that was about 15 years ago in the Midlands. We were waved through without a check. I don't mind them. I live not far from London but haven't seen them for a while. We do have automated number plate readers around now so maybe that does part of the job now?

 

 

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