Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) Grant DUI Saturation Patrol, now that’s a mouthful. STEP grants are awarded by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to programs across the state that serve to achieve the STEP grant goal of reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our roads and highways. The OTS campaign includes safety awareness and education, but the bulk of the grants go to police enforcement of DUI laws. That’s where the DUI Saturation Patrol comes in.
DUI Saturation Patrols operate throughout Orange County. Many of these patrols are funded by STEP grants. A DUI saturation patrol targets specific areas, at specific times, that are known to have large concentrations of drivers under the influence. The officers deployed on a saturation patrol are specially trained and specifically patrolling for drivers under the influence. Every city in Orange County and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department have saturation patrols, most funded by a STEP grant. Saturation patrols are almost exclusively deployed in the evening and night hours and increased during holidays. DUI Saturation Patrols are not the same thing as DUI checkpoints although they are often deployed in tandem and have the same goal: To reduce the number of drivers on the road who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Officers on a DUI saturation patrol are specifically looking for driving behaviors that suggest the driver is under the influence. However, just because a driver’s behavior is suspicious does not mean the officer can lawfully pull a driver over. The driver must be violating a traffic code; speeding, unsafe lane changes, or driving without the required lights (even one burned out tail light can be a violation), and failure to properly use blinkers are obvious candidates. But officers can also cite a driver for lane straddling, tailgating, or driving at a slow speed and other “catch-all” type violations. If the initial stop was not based on a reasonable suspicion that the driver was violating the law, the stop may be challenged by a motion to suppress on the grounds that the stop was unlawful.