The Hamilton County Traffic Safety Partnership is a consortium of law enforcement agencies in Hamilton County working to increase the usage of seatbelts, to combat aggressive driving, and to decrease impaired driving with the overall goal of creating a safer Hamilton County. The HCTSP is comprised of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, Fishers Police Department, Carmel Police Department, Noblesville Police Department, and the Westfield Police Department with the assistance of the Indiana State Police.
Impaired driving is one of our nation’s most frequently committed violent crimes. Just in Indiana in 2012, alcohol-related traffic crashes killed 158 people (up from 140 in 2011), accounting for approximately twenty percent of all fatal crashes, and injured another 2,112 people.
About 1000 people are convicted of an impaired driving offense annually in Hamilton County alone, and nearly 200 of those are repeat offenders. In 2012 in Hamilton County, for example, the State filed 1004 charges of operating while intoxicated. Of these, 158 drivers had prior convictions for operating while intoxicated within the last five years.
To combat this crime, the Hamilton County Traffic Safety Partnership will be setting up sobriety checkpoints around Hamilton County to aggressively deter, detect, and arrest those drivers who make the decision to drive impaired. Sobriety checkpoints have proven successful in both raising awareness of impaired driving and reducing the likelihood of a person driving after they have been drinking.
A sobriety checkpoint will be conducted on the night of Friday, Aug. 22 and the early hours of Saturday, Aug.23.
In order to raise awareness of the prevalence of impaired driving in our community and the efforts of the Partnership to combat the crime, the Partnership maintains a webpage at http://www.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/topic/?topicid=36&structureid=26.
At a sobriety checkpoint, law enforcement officers evaluate drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment at a specified point along the roadway, often depending upon the support of local property owners for the use of appropriate land. Checkpoint sites are selected based upon analysis of available crash and impaired driving arrest data and a consideration of officer safety.
Vehicles are stopped in a specific sequence, such as every other vehicle, every third vehicle, every fourth vehicle or by stopping three, four, or five cars in succession and allowing other traffic to proceed while checking the stopped vehicles. The planned sequence in which vehicles are stopped depends on the number of officers available to staff the checkpoint, traffic congestion, and other safety concerns.
Upon making contact with the driver, the officer advises them that they’ve been stopped at an HCTSP sobriety checkpoint and asks for the driver’s license and the vehicle’s registration. If, in the course of the contact, the officer detects that alcohol may be involved and that the driver may be impaired or if some other issue arises, then the vehicle is directed into a pull-off area for further investigation. Further investigation may involve the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). On the other hand, if all looks right during the initial contact, the driver is often on his or her way in less than two minutes.
Officers staffing the sobriety checkpoints work on an overtime basis paid by grant funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the Indiana Governor’s Council on Impaired and Dangerous Driving.
Sobriety checkpoints are legal in 39 states, including Indiana, and the District of Columbia. In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, if conducted properly, sobriety checkpoints do not constitute an illegal search and seizure. In the 2002 case of State v. Gerschoffer, the Indiana Supreme Court found that sobriety checkpoints are constitutional when conducted properly. Members of the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office work with the Partnership to ensure that each checkpoint meets constitutional requirements.
Should you have any questions regarding these sobriety checkpoints, please contact Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andre Miksha at 317-776-8595.