Nearly every motorist passing through the Orange Police Department’s DUI/driver’s license checkpoint along the westbound lane along Chapman Avenue showed their license to the officer and were on their way within seconds.
For a few others, the trip through the recent checkpoint didn’t go so smoothly.
The Orange PD conducts the sobriety checkpoints in accordance to legal requirements set forth in case law such as Michigan v. Sitz and Ingersoll v. Palmer.
“We take into account DUI arrests/collision data, traffic patterns, safety, and where alcohol- and or drug-related accidents have occurred in the past,” said Sgt. Rob Thorsen, who supervises the checkpoints.
Checkpoints are meant to promote public safety, serve as a deterrent to potentially impaired drivers and to educate the public of the dangers associated with drinking and driving, Thorsen said.
“Thankfully, the large majority (of drivers) are licensed and being responsible,” Thorsen said. “Most people understand we are trying to do a good thing and keep our community safe. They are happy to see us out here.”
A small handful of drivers exhibited signs of intoxication.
Those drivers, when contacted by one of four officers on the “line,” were asked to exit their vehicles, and walked to the nearby curb for more definitive testing.
Officer Colten Ivans, a certified drug recognition expert, administered a series of field sobriety tests that included a horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
The test involves the driver following the tip of a pen with his or her eyes.
When intoxicated, a person’s eyeballs will jerk, a condition called a nystagmus.
Ivans looks for six clues to estimate a level of intoxication.
One driver who was tested acknowledged drinking alcohol, but displayed only two of the six.
“If you have four out of six, there is an 88 percent chance that the person is at a .08 percent or higher (blood alcohol level),” Ivans said. “He was displaying two. I’m confident to say that he is able to drive.”
A second driver tested by Ivans didn’t perform so well and was ultimately asked to blow into a breathalyzer.
“He exhibited signs and symptoms of driving under the influence of alcohol,” Thorsen said.
That driver was arrested.
The Orange PD goes above and beyond the legal requirements to inform the public as to the date and time of the checkpoints through news releases and social media. Highly visible signs announcing the checkpoints are positioned well ahead of the checkpoint itself. Per the state law, drivers entering a DUI/DL checkpoint are required to stop and provide a driver’s license.
The Orange PD holds about 12 sobriety checkpoints every year, Thorsen said.
The department also holds roving DUI saturation patrols throughout the year in which officers are focused on identifying and arresting impaired drivers, the sergeant said.
The Orange PD partnered with the California Highway Patrol for the Dec. 15 checkpoint — a first-ever partnership between the two agencies, Thorsen said. The checkpoints and roving DUI patrols are funded by grants from the Office of Traffic Safety.
The Orange PD applies for the grants every year.
“Our goal is to keep the community safe and get impaired drivers off the road,” Thorsen said.