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Google Takes Heat for Waze App Posts on DUI Checkpoints

March 1, 2019 DUI/OWI/DWI

The New York Police Department sent a letter to Google demanding it remove DUI checkpoints from its WAZE App. The NYPD is concerned the Waze App enables people to circumvent a critical police function.

What Happened

WAZE is an App on which drivers share information about traffic, weather, accidents, etc. Users can post information so that other drivers can make good decisions. For example, a user might post information about a traffic backlog from an accident. Then a WAZE user would know to take another route.

Lately, users have been posting police DUI checkpoints on the App.

What’s a DUI Checkpoint?

A DUI checkpoint is where police set up a barrier make every car on the road stop to check if drivers have been drinking or using drugs. An older court case says police are allowed to do this (although it obviously sounds like a Fourth Amendment violation). Police obviously like DUI checkpoints because it eliminates the requirement of a reason to pull a driver over. In a DUI checkpoint, the police simply get to pull over every driver for no reason.

Police Are Upset

The New York Police Department, and presumably other departments, were upset at users posting DUI checkpoints. The NYPD told Google that these posts amounted to obstruction of justice. Google did not agree. Google responded that the feature is just another way drivers can make informed decision about the road.

Is This Really Obstruction of Justice?

While not making any legal conclusions, it’s difficult to say that this is truly obstruction of justice. Police activity is a matter of public importance. Sharing information on matters of public importance would seem to be protected by the First Amendment.

Notably, this police activity is not some state secret spy operation. The police are out in the open stopping cars. There’s nothing secret about it. Publishing such information in no way endangers the police.

The Future

Police are of course upset that the WAZE feature enables drunk drivers to get away with drinking and driving. A DUI checkpoint is an easy and cheap way to catch drunk drivers, so they make a lot of sense from an enforcement perspective. DUI checkpoints may not be the best police tactic in the age of information sharing technologies. Police might have to revert to such things as real work to stop drunk drivers.

Call us

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Lawyer in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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