A driver in Florida believes he successfully got through a DUI checkpoint because he had a sign on his window for the police to see. The right-wing site, Mad World News, got ahold of the video, and seems to side with the driver, who is police-recording activist Jeff Gray. Mad World News agrees that he’s learned how to stop the police from “illegally” searching your car and possessions.
Gray’s sign said:
I remain silent
I want my lawyer
The note was inside a plastic baggie that Gray hung from his closed window. In the video, he says that the second you open your window at a DUI checkpoint, officers can say anything they want to send you over to the side for a sobriety test and a search of your car. He also says, “The moment you speak a word, they can claim that your speech is slurred.”
There’s one question that nobody seems to want to answer: Why is Gray telling people how to drive drunk and not get caught? This may or may not work if you’re drunk; depending on what the officers see in your behavior behind your closed window, they may order you off to the side anyway, and you’d have no recourse. Plus, if you’re drunk, you’re breaking the law.
Furthermore, DUI checkpoints can be considered administrative searches, which puts them on the same level as entering a government building or courthouse. Everybody gets stopped and put through the same basic security measures. If the officers (in the case of federal buildings, U.S. Marshals) see something, you get additional screening. DUI checkpoints are mobile, but pretty much the same thing. It would be interesting to see if Gray has a problem with having to go through security in a courthouse or government building.
The officers at the DUI checkpoint did stop Gray and take a look at his license, registration and insurance info in the baggie. That behavior constitutes the bulk of stops at a DUI checkpoint, and Gray’s behavior seems more paranoid than it does an act of civil disobedience.
At the end of the video, Gray says that this kind of a note is the best way to handle the police at a checkpoint, because people like to argue about their rights, which escalates the situation instead of defusing it. That’s about the only solid point he makes through the whole video.
One thing that Mad World News neglected to mention is that the note itself, which comes from Florida Fair DUI, is supposed to contain all of the following information:
Notice that last one: “I will comply with clearly stated lawful orders.” In other words, this isn’t supposed to help you breeze through a DUI checkpoint without getting stopped, as Mad World News implies. It’s supposed to let officers know what you will and will not let them do, but that you will comply with their clearly stated, lawful orders.
What’s legal, though? The New York Times published excerpts from the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling upholding DUI checkpoints as constitutional way back in 1990. While getting stopped at a checkpoint constitutes a seizure under the 4th Amendment, they concluded that such a seizure is reasonable:
In sum, the balance of the state’s interest in preventing drunken driving, the extent to which this system can reasonably be said to advance that interest, and the degree of intrusion upon individual motorists who are briefly stopped, weighs in favor of [DUI checkpoints].
As to why the officers let this guy go through the DUI checkpoint, it’s not likely that they did it because they knew they were in the wrong and afraid of getting caught. Rather, it’s far more likely that they couldn’t see overt signs of drunkenness, and didn’t want to deal with someone who was likely to be combative if they did wave him aside for further checking.
So, did it work? Perhaps, but most likely not for the reasons this guy, and Mad World News, think it did. And they just told thousands of drunks that they have a new way to continue endangering people on the road.
Watch the whole video here:
Featured image via screengrab