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DUI checkpoints reduce drunk driving arrests

December 25, 2018

STURGIS — The Sturgis Police department set up a DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoint along U.S. Highway 14 near Mountain View Home Park Friday.

Patrol Sgt. Nate Borg led a team of four officers as they stopped approximately 150 vehicles coming and going through Boulder Canyon.

“We establish a predetermined area where we’re going to have the checkpoint,” Borg said. “Typically where there’s been historical violations of either crashes or a lot of alcohol related arrests.”

He explained that each vehicle is stopped and an officer will ask the driver if they’ve consumed any alcohol that evening. If the driver appears impaired, then they will use a series of three roadside tests that have been scientifically proven to determine impairment as well as a breathalyzer to see if the driver has a blood alcohol level above the legal limit of .08 percent.

“It’s not illegal to consume alcohol and drive; but it is illegal to drink to the point of impairment and drive,” Borg said.

Borg said that the impaired driving problem in America has become an epidemic, so the Supreme Court has had to establish laws allowing states to conduct DUI checks such as this.

“The Supreme Court has determined that the brief stopping of a vehicle just to ask the driver if they’ve been consuming alcohol doesn’t infringe on their Fourth Amendment rights,” Borg explained.

Funding for additional drug and alcohol enforcement such as DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols come for federally funded grants rather than the city budget, which the police department must apply for in order to facilitate the activity.

“Sometimes funds get diverted, and we can’t do one for a while,” Borg said. “And sometimes we get an influx of money, and we can’t do enough of them.”

Borg said that DUI checkpoints serve to help remind drivers to make wise decisions when consuming alcohol.

“People get together for the holidays, and they like to have some drinks with dinner and things like that. Sometimes family will drive you to drink,” Borg said with a chuckle. “We’re just trying to make sure everybody has safe holidays and gets to where they’re going or where they’re coming from safely.”

Borg said that in the five years since the Sturgis Police Department have been conducting these checkpoints, the amount of DUI arrests made during the stops have dropped drastically.

“When we first started doing this we actually had to shut the checkpoint down because every officer at the checkpoint had made a DUI arrest,” he said.

He said that in 2017 there were 49 fatal car crashes and 635 injuries sustained throughout the state of South Dakota as a result of impaired driving.

“Our ultimate goal is to get those numbers way down, because at the end of the day, impaired driving is a choice, and these fatality crashes and these injury crashes and these deaths are 100-percent preventable.”

Officers at Friday’s DUI checkpoint issued two possession of drug paraphernalia tickets, made two possession of marijuana arrests, two possession of a controlled substance arrests, and one DUI arrest. In addition to this, 21 motorists admitted to consuming alcohol, were not deemed to be under the influence, and were released.

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