June 29, 2015
Should Police Give Breath Tests in a Scranton Restaurant?
If you are out drinking at a restaurant or a bar with friends, likely the last thing you want is a team of law enforcement officers coming into the establishment to give you a breathalyzer test. This is exactly what happened to patrons of restaurants and bars in one U.S. city over Memorial Day weekend according to a local news report.
Law enforcement officers put in place a new initiative to deter drinking and driving over Memorial Day, which is always one of the most dangerous days on the road because of a high number of drunk driving accidents. The initiative involved sending three different teams of uniformed officers into popular drinking establishments to “educate” people about how much was too much to drink.
An experienced DUI defense lawyer knows efforts are continually being made to prevent impaired driving accidents. While public safety is important, so is the privacy of those who want to go out and have a drink or two with friends on a holiday. Too many programs designed to reduce drunk driving end up having a major impact on people’s lives and privacy and can result in a violation of Constitutional protections. If you end up arrested and suspect your rights were violated, get legal help.
New Drunk Driving Prevention Program Raises Privacy Concerns
Patrons present when the officers arrived at local bars reported their presence was “off-putting,” at first, although many patrons ultimately relaxed and even found the officers to be fun and entertaining. The police were giving a breathalyzer test to show patrons they may be drunker than they thought and could be over the limit without realizing it. The campaign was an attempt to drive home a common message: buzzed driving is drunk driving.
Privacy concerns abound. The officers came onto private property, and bar and restaurant owners may have felt they couldn’t say no to the initiative. Patrons may have felt pressured into giving a breath test when asked by a uniformed officer to submit to one, even though there was no probable cause for the police to conduct any type of search against someone who was of legal age and lawfully drinking at a place serving alcohol.
Officers insisted the purpose of the program was to inform, and promised they were not at the establishments in order to “test and arrest.” The problem is, such programs are subject to abuse and raise questions of what happens when people are over the limit. If officers identify patrons who have had a lot to drink, what happens if the patrons leave the bar? Do the officers ignore them, or act on the information they obtained in the breath test to pursue and arrest them if they’ve driven drunk?
If the effort to send officers into bars to educate patrons spreads to other cities, more people who are drinking will face these questions. Remember, you should never submit to a BAC test or search from a law enforcement officer unless there is probable cause you’ve done something wrong.