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Drunk driving charges for 5 at Maryland sobriety checkpoint

Often, summer holidays bring out increased efforts to enforce Maryland’s drunk driving law. Police sobriety checkpoints and increased patrols are often used by law enforcement to catch drunk drivers.

The Prince George’s County Police Department arrested so many people at a sobriety checkpoint in Lanham Hills recently that they had to close the checkpoint down early. The department had scheduled eight officers to work the checkpoint from 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. the next morning. However, each time an arrest was made, an officer had to take the suspect to be processed. By 1:30 a.m., only two officers were remaining at the site.

Five of the arrests made at the checkpoint were for drunk driving charges and another individual was arrested on drug charges.

Though allowed by law in Maryland, the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints has long been a source of debate due to concerns as to whether it violates a citizen's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

In Maryland, advance notice of a sobriety checkpoint must be given to the public and warning signs must be placed on the roadway approaching the checkpoint. Officers must be in uniform, using official police vehicles, and they cannot stop drivers who turn around to avoid the checkpoint.

By law, individuals are not required at a sobriety checkpoint to offer any information beyond their name, address, license and registration. Maryland drivers have a right to refuse to answer further questions or to submit to a field sobriety test or breath test. Such tests can be inaccurate. Field tests are sometimes failed due to inclement weather or improper footwear. Breath tests are sometimes administered with equipment that is not properly calibrated or cleaned, providing in a false result.

Source: The Sentinel, "Six arrested at Lanham Hills sobriety checkpoint," Jim Davis, June 26, 2013

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