TAMPA BAY -
UPDATE: The Florida Highway Patrol says that while it released a list of roads targeted for driver license and vehicle safety checkpoints, the agency does not currently plan to conduct them. In an email to
me, Sgt. Steve Gaskins says, "We do not have anything scheduled, nor was anything canceled as a result of your story."
In a press release dated February 1, 2013, The Florida Highway Patrol stated, "will be conducting driver license and vehicle inspection checkpoints during the month of February 2013 throughout the seven county region of Troop C on the roadways listed below. Recognizing the danger presented to the public by defective vehicle equipment, troopers will concentrate their efforts on vehicles being operated with defects such as bad brakes, worn tires and defective lighting equipment. In addition, attention will be directed to drivers who would violate the driver license laws of Florida. These checkpoints are random, daytime operations that typically delay motorists for a few minutes only. Local supervisors select the time, location and duration of the checkpoints on the roadways listed below based upon staffing, weather and traffic conditions."
The Florida Highway Patrol releases similar checkpoint press releases to local media each month. (See related link for January's press release.)
These counties operate outside of Troop C. The public information officer for Troop F says no driver license or vehicle inspection checkpoints are scheduled at this time.
Q: Is this legal?
A: There is a policy established by the Florida Highway Patrol that specifies the legal guidelines that must be undertaken by the agency to conduct driver license and vehicle safety inspection checkpoints. The information provided below comes directly from that policy, which was provided by FHP.
Q: How will this impact my drive? Won't these checkpoints cause big traffic jams?
A: Initially, every third vehicle will be stopped, however the Checkpoint Supervisor will monitor traffic to ensure a backup doesn't occur. If delays of more than three to five minutes occur, the Checkpoint Supervisor may order an alternate vehicle count (i.e. every fifth vehicle). If the traffic conditions cause a back up that cannot be easily alleviated by the alternate vehicle count, the Checkpoint Supervisor may temporarily suspend the checkpoint until the back-up has been cleared. Once cleared, the checkpoint can be reactivated using the last vehicle count method that was in place. Per the policy, the degree of intrusion to motorists and the length of detention to each driver should be kept to a minimum.
Q: Do these checkpoints affect trucks and buses too?
A: All vehicles and drivers, including commercial vehicles, buses and large trucks, that enter the checkpoint are subject to screening. The only exception is emergency vehicles.
Q: Isn't this profiling?
A: The FHP police states "vehicles and drivers shall not be stopped on a discretionary basis (i.e., due to the 'looks' of the vehicle or it occupant(s)."
Q: What's a "driver license checkpoint"?
A: Troopers will request the driver license and vehicle registration from each driver detained. If a driver is also the owner or registrant of the vehicle, the Trooper also may request proof of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. FHP says violations will be enforced pursuant to Florida law and Division policy.
Q: What are" vehicle inspection checkpoints"? Troopers aren't mechanics, so why are they checking my car?
A: Per FHP, defective vehicle equipment, such as bad brakes, worn tires and defective lighting equipment, poses dangers to the public.
Q: What will officers inspect on my vehicle if I'm stopped?
A: Troopers may inspect the following equipment on vehicles:
Directional signals (required on all vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1972)
License plate lamp
Other readily visible equipment (windshield, bumpers, etc.)
Q: Am I going to get a ticket? How much do they cost?
A: During the vehicle inspection checkpoints, Troopers may issue a Faulty Equipment Violations, which are non-moving violations and do not carry points for the driver's record. Fees for non-moving violations vary by county. In Hillsborough County, a non-moving violation fee is $103, however if a citation is issued, drivers may have the faulty equipment replaced or repaired, provide proof of those repairs, and have the fine reduced to $83. The non-moving violation fees for other counties included in the checkpoints are: Citrus $116; Hernando $114; Pasco $114; Polk $114; Sumter $11
During the driver license or vehicle inspection checkpoints, citations may be issued for seat belt violations ($103-$116 fine). Drivers that appear to be impaired may be arrested, and their vehicles may be towed.
Q: What times will the checkpoints occur?
A: Any time between sunrise and sunset, according to FHP.
Q: Are these actually DUI checkpoints?
A: No. However if an officer suspects a driver is impaired, the vehicle will be moved off of the roadway and standard procedure for DUI investigation will be conducted. When probable cause exists to believe that the driver has committed DUI, the driver will be held/processed per Florida law and local procedures for DUI offenders. If there's probable cause to believe that the driver or any passenger in the vehicle has committed an offense involving the possession or use of any contraband drug, the driver or passenger will be secured and processed in accordance with Florida law and local procedures for contraband drug offenders. Additionally, when reasonable suspicion exists to believe that the driver or any passenger in the vehicle has committed an offense involving the possession or use of any contraband drug, a K-9 officer may be requested to conduct a K-9 sniff of the vehicle in order to detect and locate contraband drugs.