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Two sobriety checkpoints -- the results

What's the best way to arrest drunk drivers?

Set up a police checkpoint, advertise its location in advance and warn approaching motorists so that they have plenty of time to seek an alternate route? Or put a bunch of police cars on the street and hunt down the drivers who've had too much to drink?

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Logic, I think, would tell you the latter (the strategies are a continuous topic of debate within law enforcement). But two recent sobriety checkpoints in Howard and Anne Arundel counties proved that logic wrong. In both cases, police made no more DUI arrests on patrol than they did at the checkpoints.

The police in Arundel had their checkpoint set up late Friday and early Saturday on Muddy Creek Road in Deale. Their counterparts in Howard set up a checkpoint Thursday night and early Friday on Route 175 in Columbia.

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Howard made six DUI arrests at the checkpoint and two on patrol. Arundel played it down the middle, with two DUI arrests at the checkpoint and two on patrol.

That seems odd to me because the law requires police to notify the public about a checkpoint ahead of time -- Arundel publicizes the location, Howard does not -- and drivers must have advanced warning as they approach the roadblock so they can legally turn around or take another road to avoid having to stop. Cpl. C. R. Dalton of the Anne Arundel Police said drivers aren't even legally required to roll down their windows at a checkpoint.

Seems to defeat the purpose of the whole exercise. Yet many people allegedly impaired by alcohol still choose to drive through a phalanx of police. I'd love to hear from people arrested at a checkoint to find out why they didn't just turn around.

Police say the answer is simple. "People just don't realize the effect alcohol has on them," said Sgt.  Frederick von Briesen, head of the Howard County Police Traffic Enforcement Section.

Drew Cochran, a defense attorney whose firm has an Internet site to help people arrested on DUI charges, said few people understand their rights. He said officers at checkpoints hand people phamplets, enticing them to roll down their windows when they don't have to. "It takes a lot of courage to not roll your window down," he said.

He also noted something I observed in Arundel: when a car does turn around before reaching the checkpoint, officers follow it and pull the driver over when an infraction occurrs. Cochran called the checkpoints "a scam."

What do you think? And which strategy works better? The checkpoints or the patrols?

Meanwhile, here's the score card from the two agencies:

Anne Arundel County police DUI checkpoint and patrols Friday and Saturday on Muddy Creek Road:

Police said 303 vehicles went through the checkpoint and officers arrested two drivers suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. Officers on patrol stopped 77 vehicles, wrote 31 citations, 53 warnings and 12 equipment repair orders. They also made two drug arrets.

Howard County police DUI checkpoint on Route 175 in Columbia Thursday and Friday:

Police said about 600 vehicles went through the checkpoint and officers arrested six drivers suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. Patrol officers arrested two others on DUI charges.

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