Saturation DUI patrols unfairly target drivers

Saturation and Roving DUI Patrols

Many law enforcement agencies have received special DUI enforcement funding through the state Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) or federally through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) via the Department of Transportation (DOT).  The increased funding has resulted in the proliferation of saturation or roving patrols conducted independently by a given police department or in conjunction with other local police departments.  The agencies use the funding to pay overtime to officers who conduct late night patrol operations specifically targeting DUI traffic stops.

The practice of roving patrols or saturation patrols are not a new creation of recent funding.  Rather, many officers have taken it upon themselves to conduct these operations as part of their routine patrol practices.   Recent funding has merely allowed officers to engage in this questionable practice to a much greater degree.

Pre-Textual Stops

This law enforcement practice is questionable due to the fact that most traffic stops that occur during a saturation or roving patrol are pre-textual.  An example of a pre-textual stop would be an officer pulling a driver over due to a license plate light not working.  Ordinarily a patrol officer would not concern themselves with such a minor violation.  However when the observation occurs late night or in an area that is perceived to be an area where drinking and driving is common (late night restaurant, bar or club area) the officer will make the stop for the equipment violation with no intention of writing a citation for the equipment violation but rather with the sole purpose of conducting a DUI investigation.

Court Support for Pre-Textual Stops

Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court validated this practice by issuing its decision in Whren v. United States (1996) which effectively held as long as there is an objectively technical reason for pulling over a vehicle (ie., license plate light out, violation of vehicle code) the true subjective motive (a DUI investigation) is not relevant to determination of whether the initial detention was lawful.  The unfortunate aspect of this is that it empowers officers to engage in targeting vehicles coming from drinking establishments or following vehicles for long distances, and waiting to observe a hyper-technical vehicle code violation to occur.

 Abusive Police Practices – Pre-textual stops

Even more problematic is the fact that it is a common practice for patrol officers, particularly those engaged in roving or saturation DUI patrols, to fabricate a pre-textual basis for a traffic stop due to suspicions that a person may be drinking and driving.  Because many agencies do not have video recording of traffic stops (such as MVARS) patrol officers are free to make up any basis for a stop (ie.. weaving, failure to use signal, crossing fog line or center line, failing to make complete stop, speeding) when they have a suspicion that a person may be drinking and driving.

Violation of 4th Amendment Search and Seizure – Pre-Textual Stop

When a patrol officer has fabricated the pre-textual basis for a traffic stop the officer has committed a 4th Amendment violation.  When officers engage in this practice an experienced and aggressive DUI attorney should fully investigate and conduct a special hearing called a suppression motion.  At the Law Office of Johnson & Johnson we routinely challenge traffic detentions with suppression motions as it is an integral part of any complete defense.  We have successfully litigated many 4th Amendment challenges resulting in suppression of unlawfully obtained evidence.

In some circumstances we have also pursued civil remedies for clients due to 4th Amendment Constitutional Violations including specifically a pre-textual traffic stop.

Prolonged Detention

In an instance where a lawful pre-textual stop has occurred a resulting arrest can still be challenged based on a Prolonged Detention.

A prolonged detention results under circumstances when the reasonable time for investigation of a pre-textual basis for a stop is exceeded without sufficient legal justification.  At The Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson, we have also successfully litigated many prolonged detention motions resulting in suppression of unlawfully obtained evidence.

If you feel that you were or may have been the subject of pre-textual stop or prolonged detention, do not hesitate to contact our office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your traffic stop and arrest at (925) 952-8900.