Critics question legality of Wentzville DWI checkpoint -

Critics question legality of Wentzville DWI checkpoint

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Sobriety checkpoints are often organized by DWI task forces to bust impaired drivers, but some critics allege the checkpoint in Wentzville on Saturday night may not have been completely legal.

In the past few years, challenges to sobriety checkpoints have reached the Supreme Court, leading to stricter guidelines which checkpoints must follow.

At Highway 61 on Saturday night, a task force comprised of six departments set up a sobriety checkpoint.

Stephen Daniels, who is a consultant for DWI cases and testifies as an expert witness, said police are required to publicize the time and location of sobriety checkpoints.

“I called six of them and I asked and inquired, ‘Where's the location at?' And, ‘What time?' And nobody would give that information. I was told they don't have to give me the location,” Daniels said.

As he drove through the checkpoint on Saturday night, Daniels said, “There is no warning, absolutely at all, that it's a DUI checkpoint, be prepared to stop.”

Daniels said law requires signs to be in place informing drivers of the checkpoint with enough time so drivers can turn off of the roadway if they do not want to go through the checkpoint.

“The first thing I saw was the MoDOT trucks and figured they were doing some lane work,” said Travis Jones.

Jones worked with the St. Charles Sheriff's Department for years in DWI enforcement and investigating crashes.

He saw red flags immediately as he drove through, Jones said, “I realized I was coming up on a checkpoint cause they had shut down the left lane, [I] was confused because there were no signs put out saying ‘sobriety checkpoint ahead.'”

Daniels said he does not want drunk drivers on the road any more than anyone else does, but unlawful sobriety checkpoints could prevent intoxicated drivers from being convicted.

“The real culprits are going to be the police departments, because if they don't do things per the standards and guidelines set up, everything that they've done is going to potentially putting people who are potentially impaired back on the roads,” said Daniels.

The Wentzville Police Department's Public Information Officer issued a memo to News 4 regarding “several critical errors” in Daniels' information. The first paragraph of the memo states: 

“First, Daniels takes exception to the Advanced Warning Area of the checkpoint. The Advanced Warning Area was set up per the guidelines outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and was consistent with the recommended sign package and placement. I have attached a copy of the Recommended Sign Package for Sobriety Checkpoints. The only optional sign we did not deploy was the Flagger Ahead sign as we did not use a flagger. I further deployed an optional Slow Traffic Ahead electronic MoDOT flashing sign board prior to any of the MUTCD Advanced Warning signage in an effort to further make the work zone safe and notify drivers of traffic conditions ahead. Daniels correctly lists our Road Work Ahead and Left Lane Closed Ahead signs. He failed to mention our Be Prepared to Stop signs and only mentioned our Checkpoint Ahead signs when he wished to argue its placement. As to Daniels' claim that motorists must have an opportunity to turn out, this is not a requirement in the State of Missouri. While other states may require it, Missouri does not. Daniels is in error on this key point…”

Click here to view the entire memo. 

Click here to view the Recommended Sign Package for Sobriety Checkpoints.

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