To encourage responsible behavior over the Memorial Day Weekend (one of the biggest drinking days of the year, with a high percentage of drunk driving accidents), police rolled out a new program. Three teams of uniformed police officers entered popular drinking facilities including bars and restaurants. Officers had breath tests, and the program's purpose was reportedly to provide more education and information to patrons who may have been drinking.
The theory: people don't always know when they've crossed the line into drinking more than is safe for them to drive. The breath tests show how much they've had to drink so they'll make more informed choices both over the Memorial Day holiday and in the future.
While some spoke in support of the new initiative, others expressed concern about privacy. Police coming to private property to test people who are not in their cars could be a violation of the rights of those patrons as well as the restaurant and bar owners and operators. While participation is allegedly voluntary, uniformed officers can be an intimidating presence and people may feel coerced into compliance.
An experienced DWI defense lawyer knows sometimes aggressive efforts to stop drunk driving result in lines being crossed and law enforcement acting inappropriately. New program inserting officers in bars with breath tests could be a step towards infringing on rights of people who have committed no crime.
Should Police Go Into Restaurants and Bars to Take Breath Tests?
One patron at the restaurant when police arrived indicated it was "off-putting" when all the uniformed officers walked into the bar. While patrons apparently relaxed and some apparently found the officers entertaining, there were likely many bar-goers uncomfortable with the idea of getting a breath test while out legally consuming alcohol.
Police officers insisted they were not at the bars or restaurants to "test and arrest." What would an officer do, though, if patrons in a bar or restaurant were primarily testing over-the-limit. Would the officer simply leave after the testing was done, or could the officer wait outside to stop people who tested over-the-limit?
Those who are drinking need to remember they never need to submit to a search of their persons, including a test of their BAC, unless they are behind the wheel and there is reasonable cause for an officer to suspect they are driving impaired. While giving a breath test may seem harmless if police show up at a bar and promise not to arrest you, there's no guarantee you won't come to regret giving the officer the right to conduct this search.
The program, so far, was a pilot program in one city and may not be adopted as a drunk driving prevention method by other forces. If officers believe it does have an impact on reducing drunk driving, however, it could end up in a bar or restaurant near you. If it does, be sure to know your rights.