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Handling DUI Stops

You don’t need to serve on a special task force to get impaired drivers off the street.

February 17, 2012  |  by Amaury Murgado - Also by this author

Photo: iStockPhoto.com
Photo: iStockPhoto.com

Dualism basically states that there tend to be two choices when faced with any particular situation, which in turn becomes the dichotomy of the decision-making. Usually your choices narrow themselves down to a selection between opposites. It's either yes or no, you like it or you hate it, or things are viewed as being good or bad. It would seem that dualism runs amok in law enforcement, especially when it comes to handling traffic.

You either love working traffic or you hate it. The proof is in the work product. You either write hundreds of tickets or you barely hand out any warnings. This form of traffic dualism is even more prevalent when it comes to the handling of DUIs.

Cops are either predatory in nature when it comes to cases of driving under the influence or they shudder at the thought. We have all seen the damage that impaired drivers can inflict upon society in terms of property damage, injuries, and fatalities. And yet, unless it becomes personal (like a DUI crash killing a family member) very few of us really give it much thought. It's just another task to be performed in a long list of other job requirements.

When you do get involved, it's usually because the driver fell out of his or her car smelling like a brewery. But what about when it's not so fool proof? There is a tendency to shy away from DUIs unless you are part of a specialty unit that deals with them all the time. But I think we can reverse this trend through understanding and training.

What's There to Understand?

I think one of the problems we face in law enforcement is that we get desensitized to things. Since you are exposed to so many negative situations over long periods of time, they lose their impact on you. You hear about the evils of DUIs all the time from organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), you are bombarded with it by news outlets, and you live it at work. But do we in law enforcement really understand the scope of the problem? I think not, because if we did we would be more proactive and the numbers would speak for themselves.

MADD's Website states that one in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime. In 2010 alone, around 10,839 people died in a drunk driver-related crash. Teen alcohol use kills about 6,000 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined. And sadly, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and one out of three of those are alcohol related.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) paints an even bleaker picture on its Website:

  • Over 50% of all fatal highway crashes involving two or more cars are alcohol 
  • related.
  • Over 65% of all fatal single car crashes are alcohol related.
  • Over 36% percent of all adult pedestrian accidents are alcohol related.
  • 36% of all adult pedestrian accidents involve an intoxicated pedestrian.

It's not about an upset family member screaming for justice because a drunk driver killed his or her daughter. It's everyone's problem unless you or your family don't drive on the roadways. Drunk drivers do not discriminate among their victims. Everyone is fair game.

I believe that officers shy away from DUIs because it has become a highly skilled conflict of competing interests; between those that prosecute and those that defend. The days of simply writing a report of "saw drunk arrested same" are long gone. It has been estimated that a typical DUI defense requires around $5,000 in attorney's fees and court costs. People don't pay that kind of money for shabby service. The defense attorneys will rip you a new one if you don't have your act together.

I think some officers just don't want to do battle. Though laziness is an age-old problem, the modern era has created a misguided sense of the warrior spirit. If you are not part of some type of tactical response team, then you're not a warrior. Some officers believe that dealing with DUIs is not worthy of their talents. These types have never learned what a true warrior knows; it's always about helping people and saving lives regardless of the task it involves.

CONTINUED: Handling DUI Stops «   Page 1 of 2   »


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