A common question we, and other top Orange County DUI Lawyers get, is whether or not the police have quotas to meet as far as the number of DUI arrests that they get. In California, quotas for DUI arrests are against the law.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a political organization, has an annual award for law enforcement, presented at a luncheon, for the officer that makes the most DUI arrests in a single year. That certainly provides incentive and competition to make more arrests than other officers, even if some of those arrests might not end up in a DUI conviction.
As shown in the photograph above, and in a recent article about a DUI trial in the Neshoba Democrat, police responded affirmatively about the need for DUI arrests to meet quotas.
“On cross examination by the defense, Lyons told the court that he is paid to write a certain number of DUI tickets as part of a grant which funds his salary.”
Quotas do exist in some jurisdictions, despite denials by law enforcement, and in some cases they are hidden by the law enforcement structure. Quotas for DUI arrests are not illegal in every jurisdiction. They are certainly discouraged, however, in all jurisdictions, as the law requires specific articulable probable cause for DUI arrests.
Last year, an NPR story uncovered quotas for DUI cases, calling it “one of the dirty secrets in law enforcement that no one likes to talk about.” The story noted that police departments routinely deny requiring officers to deliver a set number of tickets or arrests, even when they exist, and that doing so corrodes the community’s relationship with the police.
“I can tell my supervisors that I took three people to the hospital and I saved their lives. That the child that I helped deliver is healthy. I can tell them that. But that’s not going to cut it”, said New York Officer Adhyl Polanco. Polanco said right away after joining the police, it became clear that his supervisors only cared about two things: tickets and arrests. He stated that the unwritten rule is that officers are expected to bring in “20 and one.” That’s 20 tickets and one arrest per month. But it was tough to get anyone outside the department to believe him, because NYPD officials would always deny there were any quotas. They still do.
The Tampa Bay newspaper had an article about a lawsuit against the police involving DUI quotas, filed by a man who was arrested and kept in jail when he had a 0.0% alcohol level (and no other substances in his system). The man was arrested for DUI after the officer decided that the plaintiff in the civil lawsuit, Ayers, who was 73 at the time, had alcohol on his breath, slurred speech and performed poorly on field sobriety tests. But when Ayers got to the county jail, records show, a breath test put his blood alcohol level at 0.000, and a urine test turned up no intoxicants.
The lawsuit, for false arrest and malicious prosecution, claims Tampa officers pressured to meet annual DUI arrest quotas make unconstitutional arrests without sufficient probable cause. Those same allegations form the basis of an ongoing lawsuit by prominent Cuba activist Al Fox, who was arrested and charged with DUI in February 2013 despite clean urine and breath tests.
“We are in no way, shape or form against DUI enforcement, but the problem we’ve seen repeatedly is that DUI (officers) are going way overboard to enforce the law,” said Joseph Lopez, a Tampa attorney representing both Ayers and Fox. “And this is a perfect example of that.”
Arrest and ticket quotas are illegal in several states, including New York, Illinois, California and Florida. But even former law enforcement officials will tell you they still exist, even where they are strictly illegal.
“Does it happen in some places? Yeah, I’m sure it does,” says Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. Wexler says some of the 18,000 police departments across the country probably do have quotas.
“On the one hand, there is an understandable desire to have productivity from your officers,” says Wexler. “But telling them that you want to arrest x number of people, you have to cite x number of people, it just encourages bad performance on the part of officers.”