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New North Carolina checkpoint policies start next month

Police officers often rely on checkpoints to identify drivers who are drunk, speeding or driving without a valid license. While these resources are intended to protect other drivers on the road, they are being used to unfairly target drivers in specific demographics according to complaints. Reacting to these criticisms, police officers in Winston-Salem recently announced that they would make some changes to their checkpoint policies.

Checkpoints are commonly put into place during holiday weekends like Labor Day. Police say that there are more impaired or reckless drivers on the road during these times, and checkpoints are among the solutions that officials have developed in order to keep traffic accidents low. However, according to critics of these solutions, current checkpoint policies allow for the disparate placement of them in areas with large minority populations.

According to reports, 85 percent of the 244 checkpoints that were set up in an 11-month period were placed in areas where there are significantly more minority residents. This would indicate that police are unfairly targeting racial and ethnic minorities by being biased in their checkpoint placement, which is unlawful.

In response to these accusations, the Winston-Salem police have agreed to adjust their policies on checkpoints. Starting in October, computers and statistics will be used to randomly generate placement determinations. Officers will also receive more training on how to avoid racial profiling and discrimination against certain drivers at checkpoints. Finally, as an additional method to ensure that police are not violating a person's rights, the activity at these checkpoints will be videotaped.

These measures take some positive strides in preventing a checkpoint from being improperly set up, though it does not meet all of the recommendations made by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. This group was the most vocal critic of the checkpoints. While they are pleased with the proposed changes, the ACLU will continue to monitor checkpoint policies so that no one else is unfairly targeted by them.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, "Police will use new methods to set up traffic checkpoints," John Hinton, Sept. 10, 2012

  • Drivers across the state have received tickets because of these checkpoints. In some cases, there may be ways to show that a checkpoint was improperly set up to unfairly target certain drivers. For more information on defending against these charges and citations, please visit our North Carolina traffic violation defense page.

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