DUI, Police Checkpoints and the Problem of Social Media

by gclatworthy on April 25, 2013

[U.S Law and General] Social media has become a seemingly unstoppable force over the past decade. From bringing long lost friends back together to starting revolutions in Middle Eastern countries, there’s very little that these sites cannot do. Unfortunately for police and victims of drunk drivers, individuals have also learned to use social media to negate the effects of random DUI checkpoints. Entire pages have gone up in an effort to warn their followers of police checkpoints throughout a city. This has left law enforcement with the new task of overcoming the handicap that social media presents. 

Social Media and DUI Checkpoints

People use different social media sites in different ways when it comes to warning others of DUI checkpoints. Their goal, however, is the same: warn people away from these spots. People on Twitter can quickly “tweet” a one line update detailing where a police checkpoint is, and all of their followers will be able to see it. This is possible on Facebook as well, and the problem seems to be even more prevalent on the social media giant.

Entire pages dedicated to warning the people of a city about checkpoints have recently popped up. Individuals can follow these pages for the express purpose of getting warnings of checkpoints around their town. One Facebook page called “Operation Rolling Thunder Spotline” was set up solely for Augusta, GA residents to warn each other of a police presence. The page currently has more than 4,800 followers; this constitutes 2.5 percent of the city’s entire population.

Trying to overcome Social Media

Police would obviously lose the battle against drunk driving if they continued using the same tactics that they did before social media began to play a part in the process. One Gainesville DUI attorney explains that “usually very early in the morning or very late at night, these checkpoints are used in an effort to catch drunk drivers that otherwise might have slipped through the net – no matter whether this was from a lack of police officers or from their lack of tell-tale signs of drunk driving.”

In light of the problems social media presents, some police departments have taken to using random checkpoints on nights when people wouldn’t expect them. This increases the chance that individuals won’t be paying attention to these warning sites since they only expect DUI checkpoints to take place on the weekends.

Additionally, many police departments have taken to administering much smaller checkpoints than they’re used to. A police checkpoint with about five officers is very mobile. This allows police to stake out an area for a certain period of time and then quickly move on. They can then set up shop at another area of town within minutes, and since no one warned their friends of this new checkpoint, the police will have additional time before another warning goes out.

Turning the Tables

Everyone knows that fire must be fought with fire, and in the case of warnings of checkpoints, officers have learned to use social media to fight back. As mentioned earlier, officers in many towns now use smaller checkpoints that can easily relocate. These policemen, however, also have access to social media checkpoint warnings, so as soon as they see a warning go out, they can abruptly end their current stop and move on.

Additionally, though it has little to do with checkpoint warnings, police are using social media in other aspects. We likely all were astounded by the recent identification of the Boston Marathon bombers through social media and crowd sourcing photos, but police also use these sites for smaller alcohol-related crimes. An Oregonian teenager, for instance, was arrested after updating his status to apologize for the vehicle he hit during an alleged intoxicated hit-and-run. The main point here? Police know how to use social media too.

The majority of people who post on DUI checkpoint alert pages may feel as if they’re just stopping their fellow man from getting speeding tickets, but in actuality, these warnings may succeed in the page’s intended goal of warding inebriated drivers away from checkpoints. These pages are obviously useful to those who decide to drive after a few too many drinks, but unfortunately, the possibility exists that these drivers will cause accidents rather than being caught. Sadly, with social media being such a huge part of our lives, there’s not much that can be done to prevent this. 

Georgina Clatworthy was formerly editor for a well respected legal blog and now writes consumer focused articles on issues relating to the U.S legal system. Katz and Phillips, P.A is a Gainesville DUI attorney firm which represents those charged with DUI. By hiring a reputable attorney to represent you, you stand the best chance of getting your DUI charges dropped or reduced, as well as ensuring that your rights and interests are protected.

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