Following a Sept. 15 MU Police Department sobriety checkpoint near Jones Hall, rumors spread around campus concerning foot patrol officers conducting sobriety checks on pedestrians.
But MUPD does not schedule sobriety checkpoints for foot patrol officers, Capt. Brian Weimer said.
Throughout the month of September, MUPD hosted a checkpoint near Jones Hall, and Columbia Police Department hosted a checkpoint at College Avenue and University Avenue. As with all sobriety checkpoints, both departments announced the checkpoints in advance.
“Nothing is different than before,” Weimer said. “Sobriety checks will be known about in advance, and when the sobriety check is actually taking place, it will be obvious that the cars need to stop.”
September’s checkpoint was held on Kentucky Avenue between Curtis and Richmond avenues. The checkpoint saw 251 vehicles pass through. Two arrests were made for driving while intoxicated and three were made for minor in possession, according to a MUPD news release.
“The main reason we conduct sobriety checks is to allow better access for the community to be safe,” MUPD spokesman Capt. Scott Richardson said.
During sobriety checks, the only way pedestrians can be stopped is if they actually walk through the checkpoint. During normal on-duty hours, the police can stop and question a pedestrian if they feel they have probable cause to do so.
“Probable cause to stop someone to check their sobriety would be if a person is stumbling, falling over or carrying alcohol in hand,” CPD spokeswoman Latisha Stroer said. “Officers will ask pedestrians were they came from, what they have been doing and ask if they need any medical attention. Typically, we release people on summons unless they previously have a warrant for their arrest.”
Concerning the open container laws, Stroer says that people who are intoxicated are responsible for their own open containers. However, if a sober driver happens to be pulled over in a checkpoint and he or she has passengers in the backseat with open containers in their hands, the driver is not responsible for those open containers and will not get in trouble.
“The laws get tricky concerning open containers,” Stroer said. “However, if you are underage and have any sort of open container on you or are obviously intoxicated, that is clearly against the law.”
A concern with the possibility of getting stopped walking while intoxicated has been that people will stay at parties all night in an unsafe environment just to avoid getting in trouble, Stroer said. CPD urges people to make the right decision and safely make their way home.
“It is very important that everyone uses a designated driver,” Stroer said. “If you are stuck in a situation where you need to get home, call a friend or a family member to drive you home safely.”