Update on DUI Checkpoint Applications
In March, we commented on the drunk driving checkpoint applications that hit the market. These downloadable applications – including “DUI Dodger,” “PhantomAlert,” “Buzzed,” and “Checkpoint Wingman” – sent drivers alerts about DUI checkpoints, allowing them to possibly evade the checkpoints if they had concerns about being pulled over for drunk driving.
The checkpoint apps were controversial from the moment they appeared on the market. Four U.S. senators wrote a letter to Apple, Google and Research in Motion (RIM), calling on them to ban these applications or remove any DUI checkpoint data provided by the apps.
Since then, there have been significant developments:
- RIM immediately agreed to ban and remove DUI checkpoint applications from its BlackBerry App World.
- In June, Apple banned new checkpoint applications that publish the undisclosed location of DUI checkpoints from its app store. However, applications that only disclose DUI checkpoints that law enforcement agencies have already published can still be sold.
Google has yet to take any action on the DUI checkpoint applications. In a May hearing about the apps, Google said that it was debating the issue and that the applications were not in violation of its policies.
Some of the companies that created the DUI checkpoint applications, including Trapster, have acted on their own to remove DUI alerts. However, at least one company – PhantomALERT – has sent out a press release claiming it “is here to stay.”
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
The checkpoint applications are just another step in the battle over DUI checkpoints (also known as “sobriety checkpoints”). Many people regard drunk driving checkpoints as unconstitutional because they allow police to stop and search a car without probable cause. However, the U.S. Supreme Court – in Michigan Dep’t of State Police v. Sitz, a 1990 case – ruled that these random checkpoints are legal because they found the state’s/public’s interest in preventing drunk driving was greater than the intrusion of a “brief stop” on an individual motorist.