Trying to Avoid Unwanted Contact with Police this Weekend by Mark Stevens 603-893-0074

Hello everyone.

Your chances of having an unwanted encounter with the police this Memorial Day weekend are higher than ever before. That is because the government has issued massive money for roadblocks and saturation patrols. The problem with that strategy is that roadblocks do not usually lead to many real DWI arrests. Typically, the police have to stop about 100 cars to hope to find one person who they even SUSPECT of DWI. What they end up citing though are lots of other motor vehicle arrests, people with warrants and the like so they can report "SIX ARRESTED AT DWI CHECKPOINT", etc. If you peel back the onion you will find that only one or two were DWI arrests, and the rest were a flotsam and jetsam of sundry motor vehicle code offenses or benign inspection violations. Some points that might be helpful to bear in mind if you drive at night over this weekend are:

1. Make Sure Your Inspection Stickers and Registrations Are Valid. An important reminder if you are driving this weekend is to make sure that your car has a valid inspection sticker, as well as a valid registration. When you drive into a roadblock, or even drive by the police this weekend without a valid inspection sticker you can count on being stopped and hassled. Like all the motor vehicle code, the police often co-opt this to see if you have been drinking or have drugs in your car. The penalty for a violation of this section of the motor vehicle code is $60, but the real penalty is when the police smell alcohol or suspect that you have been drinking after stopping you for the lack of an inspection sticker. Many drivers who are initially stopped for this minor violation end up charged with DWI, DUI or OUI. AVOID one potential for this by making sure your inspection stickers are up to date.

2. Make Sure Your Plate Lights and Other Lights Work. Everyone driving at night should check their brake lights, plate lights, and other lighting, as well as their inspection stickers and license plates, to avoid some unwanted interaction with police. The cheesiest of motor vehicle stops begin with a passive equipment violation such as those I've just mentioned. In these types of stops, the driver is not exhibiting any signs of impairment. The driver may be obeying the speed limit, maintaining appropriate lane control, and otherwise following every rule of the road, but he finds himself in the flashing blue glow of police lighting wondering why he was stopped.

This high number of stops for equipment violations in recent years is not because the police have taken a sudden interest in the functioning of plate lights, or their concern for whether drivers are using turn signals late at night when there is no one else on the road to signal. Rather, the police have a broader goal: the police have co-opted the motor vehicle code to fight the war on drugs, and many DWI arrests ensue after these stops when the police can't find any drugs after the stop.

Avoid giving the police some of these chances to legally stop you by making sure that all your lights are functioning, your registration and inspection stickers are up to date, and your license is valid.

PREPARATION FOR THIS WORST CASE SCENARIO. It is not a bad idea to prepare for this event. Have your license and registration in an easy place to find and an easy place to quickly and effortlessly produce upon demand. Don't put your license in a difficult spot to pull it out quickly when you need to. Practice taking your license out of your wallet in the safety of your home. CONSIDER GETTING A REGISTRATION HOLDER TO KEEP YOUR VEHICLE REGISTRATION IN. If you do not have one send me an email with your mailing address and I will send you a registration holder for every one of your vehicles free of charge. Then practice producing your license and registration fairly frequently. It will make it easier to do if you ever have to produce them under a pressurized roadside situation.

Have a safe weekend,

Mark Stevens




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