Saturation Patrols

Saturation patrols put large numbers of police officers in a small area to maximize the number of DUI arrests.

Law enforcement has been stepping up its efforts to catch DUI drivers. Across California, police departments view DUI enforcement as a tool to increase revenue from fines and create an image of looking out for public safety. Many departments even receive special federal grants to fund extra DUI enforcement. One of the most common ways they do this is through saturation patrols.

Saturation patrols involve assigning large numbers of extra squad cars to a specific area. They can be conducted for a single night only, or every night for a period of weeks. Unlike a DUI checkpoint, saturation patrols don’t use roadblocks and they don’t stop every car passing through. Instead, individual squad cars look for any illegal driving, and can often catch dozens of people in just a few hours.

Other differences include:

  • Saturation patrols are harder to avoid and do not have to be announced ahead of time
  • Whereas checkpoints mainly result in charges for DUI, driving without a license, and drug possession, saturation patrols catch large numbers of people for speeding and other violations as well
  • Saturation patrols tend to catch more drunk drivers total, and are easier for law enforcement to organize

It is legal for police to conduct saturation patrols. In most cases being pulled over by a saturation patrol is the same as being pulled over by any other police car. However, saturation patrols have been criticized for targeting areas where minorities live.

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