Government, Recent Events

Anatomy of a DUI Checkpoint


by Keith Colgan – Editor of LODI360

Extending well past my bed time with temperatures dipping into the low 40’s, last night I experienced what it was like to attend a DUI Checkpoint in Lodi. These are my observations.

First, the logistics were extreme. Sgt. Chris Jacobson’s first concern was safety for both his people and the good citizens of Lodi using Lockeford Street that evening.  Nothing was left to chance. Flares, reflective cones, flashing lights, signs and stationary vehicles were strategically placed to define and protect working areas.  Special portable lighting was used for improved visibility. Tow trucks were staged for the inevitable separation of man from his machine.

Manpower was supplied by a team of highly trained sworn officers and volunteers.  Volunteers included a cadre of young Cadets and senior Lodi PD “Partners”.  In addition, three representatives from MADD were on hand to distribute educational material.

After all preparations were made, which took about 90 minutes, officers began the process of interviewing drivers. A friendly greeting, a brief explanation, a request to see their driver’s license, and people were quickly on their way having had a positive, uneventful experience with local law enforcement.

However, it only took a few minutes before the people most feared by mothers and fathers began occupying the full attention of Sgt Jacobson’s team.  Drivers without proper licensing and those suspected of being under the influence were asked to move their vehicles to designated areas where driving status and ownership were verified by a dedicated dispatcher working from the police station. If necessary, FST’s (Field Sobriety Tests) were given. Some passed without incident, others did not and faced the consequences.

Occasionally, drivers could be seen approaching the checkpoint, only to make a quick u-turn. Not a good idea because patrol and traffic officers on motorcycles were positioned on the fringes to encourage their participation.

A few observations …

1. In the past, most violations discovered at a DUI Checkpoint would trigger an automatic tow and 30-day impound of your vehicle.  Now, violators in California are given the opportunity to have their vehicle driven away by the registered owner or designated licensed driver.

2. Regardless of the offense, long hours and frigid temperatures, police officers remained polite, professional and good-natured.

3. Lodi has a strong support system of citizen volunteers.

4. One feels a bit safer for himself and his family knowing that people who insist on driving drunk are being discouraged.

5. You can easily smell alcohol on the breath of a drunk from 15 feet.

Discussion

12 thoughts on “Anatomy of a DUI Checkpoint

  1. How do I get a copy of one of the pictures?

    Posted by Paula | January 10, 2012, 8:59 am
    • Paula,

      If you are using a personal computer (PC) and can use a low-resolution picture, then simply right-click on the enlargement and save the image to your computer for free. If you would like me to provide a high-resolution file of the picture or arrange to have a print mailed to you, then please provide more details about what you want and in what form you want it via the “Contact” link above.

      Keith

      Posted by LODI360 Editor | January 10, 2012, 6:38 pm
    • I’ll be expecting to see some spiffy, new flatbed tow trucks for sale soon. Or maybe even some foreclosed on with the passage of AB353.

      Posted by Doug Chaney | January 16, 2012, 6:26 pm
  2. Thank you for the direction flow of the checkpoints. I went through on my way to Hope Harbor and was one of the vehicles that was passed through. It sure looked to me like there were 4 or 5 times as many people working this checkpoint than needed. Why would they require such a large amount of people? I’ve been through many DUI checkpoints in my life and never seen close to this number. Some SoCal checkpoints are operated with 6-8 persons on staff. And when they stage at property that’s privately owend, such as Geweke’s 2 abandoned properties on Cherokee Lane, does LPD/COL pay to lease or rent this property also? And why would LPD/COL stage this checkpoint on the dirt lot? Just how much oil, transmission fluid, hydraulic oil, etc. was leaked from both the towed vehicles and the tow trucks? I thought there was an ordinance prohibiting these veehicles from parking in or on an ynimproved lot, such as dirt, even temporarily, except in an emergency?

    Posted by Doug Chaney | January 10, 2012, 8:58 am
  3. Among other questions that need to be addressed are: Just what do these owners of the tow companies pay the city of Lodi or LPD to participate in these checkpoints? How are the tow operators on site paid and by whom? Do they get paid overtime like LPD? How are the 30-day impound costs split between the entities? And, mainly, why aren’t the names and ages of both DUI/impaired, unlicensed and other offenders arrested at these checkpoints made public, especially on the LPD website? I’d think that MADD would be outraged that these checkpoints spend way too much time and effort on towing vehicles for minor misdemeanor traffic violations than on drunk and impaired drivers.

    Posted by Doug Chaney | January 10, 2012, 8:47 am
    • in my opinion, catching even one Drunk Driver and getting them off the streets is worth all the work. Random checkpoints can also be deterent for some who are afraid to drive drunk since they may go through one. MADD volunteers are at the checkpoint to provide educational material to the drivers who pass through. MADD probably would not be present to provide this material during a saturation.

      Posted by KS | January 22, 2012, 6:37 pm
  4. Mr. Colgan, can you verify the traffic flow direction of the Saturday night checkpoint of the vehicle check? And why so many tow vehicles for only supposedly 8 tows?

    Posted by Doug Chaney | January 9, 2012, 9:21 pm
    • At the beginning there were at least 11 tow trucks, but it thinned out later when it became obvious that traffic was fairly light and the new law was having an impact on the number of tows. I don’t know for sure, but it is reasonable to assume that many of the trucks staged themselves and responded as needed to other calls for service, while still supporting the Checkpoint. As to direction, eastbound drivers suspected of driving under the influence were directed into the dirt lot south of the Grape Festival. Westbound drivers hooked a right into the paved parking area in front of the Grape Festival entrance. This was a little unusual because on most streets they have to operate in only one direction at a time.

      Posted by LODI360 Editor | January 9, 2012, 10:58 pm
  5. Did I miss something in the story or photos? Where do you get 11 tow trucks? Yes, it is legal to make a legal u-turn, but you better do everything legal or you will be stopped. That’s when they catch a lot of the bad guys for warrants, DUI, etc. One reason for having it going eastbound rather than west bound is to not have too many cars backed up, causing delays. Others might be for better logistics like safety, parking lots, etc. AB 353 covered only unlicensed drivers, so yes, the 30 impounds will go down. And the safety of us all on the road will also go down.

    Posted by offramp | January 9, 2012, 10:25 am
    • Offramp, there were as many as 11 tow trucks there at one time. And it looked like the check was on traffic going westbound, into downtown, and not from downtown where all the bars and wine tasting rooms, 11 or so of tasting rooms alone, who would certainly be heading eastbound toward the 99 freeway corridor. Correct me if I’m wrong. I certainly hope our taxpayer money didn’t go to those 11 or so tow drivers who had trucks on site. Especially on overtime. The checkpoints need to be reconsidered in lieu of saturation patrols due to the new AB353. Saturation patrols would be much more effective, especially in such a small area town as Lodi. The downtown area seems to be mostly alcohol related venues and saturating Turner, Lower Sac, Cherokee Lane, Lodi Ave, School st, Church st, Lockeford st, downtown area, Kettleman Lane, Ham Lane, Central and Stockton st. would net many more impaired/drunk drivers than the present checkpoint system. I firmly believe in DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols as long as they concentrate on impaired drivers and not minor traffic violators to line the city coffers and command payments of any kind for a tow company owner/operator to pay an entity to participate in a DUI checkpoint for the sole purpose of enriching themselves by preying on mostly illegal aliens who are unlicensed and pay ungodly amounts of money to these vultures for impound and release fees. It’s sad to see DUI/impaired drivers get off easier than an unlicensed driver.

      Posted by Doug Chaney | January 9, 2012, 9:18 pm
  6. Was it necessary to have as many as 11 tow trucks on site? And it is legal to make a legal u-turn when approaching these checkpoints. I went through myself and wondered why the checkpoint seemed to be monitoring traffic on Lockeford street going westbound into town, rather than eastbound towards the 99 freeway? And why on such a low traffic volume area on the east side again? Wouldn’t the preferable direction of traffic flow be from downtown Lodi to the 99 freeway corridor? It looks like with AB353 that the number of tows and 30 day impounds for unlicensed and minor traffic violators has decreased drastically also.

    Posted by Doug Chaney | January 9, 2012, 9:52 am
    • Hi Doug,
      Yes, you’re right, for a while it looked like a tow truck convention. In fact, only eight vehicles required towing on what turned out to be a relatively slow night (302 vehicles screened). Regarding u-turns, officers didn’t chase down anyone outside the “coned” area who were making legal turns. They did, however, make at least one DUI arrest that made a course correction as they entered the coned area. As to direction of traffic, Sgt Jacobson designed the checkpoint to screen both directions at the same time.

      Posted by LODI360 Editor | January 9, 2012, 10:28 am

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