3 Arrested During Lake Elsinore DUI Checkpoint

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

A DUI/driver's license checkpoint in Lake Elsinore Friday night resulted in three arrests, a sheriff's sergeant is reporting.

The checkpoint at Grand Avenue and Lakeshore Drive began at 7 p.m. and operated until approximately 2 a.m. Saturday.

According to a report from Sgt. Peter Giannakakos, the following arrests were made:

  • Thomas Mercer, 21, of Lake Elsinore arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. 
  • Willie Groones, 46, of La Palma arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance.
  • Roderick Boone, 48, of Anaheim arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance.
The sergeant's reported that 857 vehicles passed through the checkpoint; 20 vehicles were stored or impounded for 30 days and 22 unlicensed and suspended drivers were sent to court.

The checkpoint was one of many that have been conducted throughout the year in the city, Giannakakos continued.  

"Alcohol and drug impaired driving causes serious injuries and deaths that have marred recent holiday celebrations. The Lake Elsinore Police Department is committed to working aggressively to reduce the incidence of needless tragedy that accompanies any alcohol related collision," Giannakakos said in his report.

The checkpoint was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT December 29, 2013 at 10:18 AM
An other waste of money the checkpoint should be at Railroad Canyon for all those people in Tuscany Hills. They have one way in and one way out that would be a checkpoint which would net the city tons and tons of money.
The Majority December 29, 2013 at 11:25 AM
Only one alcohol related arrest and two drug related arrests. Those folks up in Tuscany Hills are all home owning and law abiding citizens. I doubt setting up a checkpoint at the bottom of that hill would yield a single drug related or alcohol related arrest. Have to remember, the police choose areas where there's a higher than normal likelihood to net motorists driving while intoxicated. Would that be considered profiling?
EM December 29, 2013 at 08:44 PM
No disrespect intended "The Majority", but I think you might be surprised to find out just how many people that live in fancy houses up on high hills are just as susceptible to alcohol and drug addiction as those on skid row and everywhere in between ... especially considering the fact that they can afford more of these substances ... Addiction does not discriminate!!!
Tell it like it is December 30, 2013 at 01:39 AM
You know how many "important" people travel up and down Summerhill Dr. and Railroad Cyn Rd. Although a checkpoint on those roads from time to time would be nice, I bet the political backlash would be insurmountable, and something the police department just simply not want to deal with.
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT December 30, 2013 at 08:31 AM
Lets catch the real drunks, put the checkpoint at the entrance to Tuscany Hills on New Years Eve. An other waste of money the checkpoint should be at Railroad Canyon for all those people in Tuscany Hills. They have one way in and one way out that would be a checkpoint which would net the city tons and tons of money.
John B. December 30, 2013 at 10:19 AM
So are you saying that the point of these checkpoints is to make the city money or are they trying to ensure the safety of other motorists? If its to make money, they're hardly breaking even, although I'm sure they love the overtime. The checkpoints also provide an excuse (no probable cause) to stop people who aren't doing anything at all and perhaps search their car it they consent. You have the right to refuse. As an older adult, I've been stopped at them and they have always been pretty reasonable, but youngsters and young adults are more likely to be searched just to see what they can turn up. Not a particularly fruitful use of city funds, but great business for the impound yards.
Bd December 30, 2013 at 11:33 AM
I hate these checkpoints as much as anybody, but just so the record's clear, there have been checkpoints on Railroad in the past. Just before you get to the church.
Matt December 30, 2013 at 12:46 PM
I NEVER drink and drive. I feel these checkpoints border on 4th amendment violations and are a huge waste of taxpayer money. They cite that it's grant money they are spending so it doesn't cost the city. Where do you think they get the money for grants geniuses? Just once I would like to see the net results on how many people they arrest for DUI on a non checkpoint night VS a checkpoint night. I bet we'd all be surprised.
Kenny Smalley December 30, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Matt, the ultimate goal isn't to only catch drunk drivers. It is to prevent people from driving drunk. You are more likely to drive responsibly if you know you might hit a checkpoint on the way home. IMO, the state should do everything they can to stop drunk driving, no matter what the cost. The amount of people who die each year from drunk driving accidents is comparable to the amount of people who die each year from gun violence.
Kenny Smalley December 30, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Simply put, if this area gets the reputation of being a " speed trap" or " DUI trap" less people will speed and drive drunk through here.
Bd December 30, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Kenny, 'no matter what the cost'? Everyone should give up freedom and liberty because a few people (as a percentage of all drivers) break the law. So most drivers who aren't drunk and don't drink and drive will know not to in the future because they're intimidated by the police presence? That's our best solution?
DB December 30, 2013 at 02:45 PM
My wife and I drove through this Friday night, we were in and through it in less than 1 minute at approximately 8 pm on the way back up the Ortega from dinner at Dos Lagos.....not sure what all the fuss is over, don't drink and drive and you do not have to sweat these......
Matt December 30, 2013 at 03:24 PM
I not afraid of these checkpoints. I have an app for that. I'm afraid of killing an innocent family or being arrested by a cop spotting me drive drunk. That's why I don't drink and drive EVER. It's our freedoms that are being stripped under the guise of saving lives. Look at the results of the checkpoints. They get more people for lots of other things.
Kenny Smalley December 30, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Bd, I didn't say it is the best option but it definitely is an option. _______________________________ Matt, you sound like a rational person that knows right from wrong. Fact is, there are a lot of people who don't have those qualities. How much of your freedom is really being stripped with a DUI checkpoint? Also, you prove my point of why they do these stops. If you know there are going to be a lot of cops in one area, you wouldn't drive drunk through that are because you are afraid of getting arrested; they have succeeded in what they were trying to do. ____________________________________________
Pauly December 30, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Lakeshore drive does not intersect Grand avenue, I think you meant Lakeshore and Riverside drive. or maybe Riverside dr and Grand ave.
The Majority December 31, 2013 at 11:42 AM
Interesting comments here. I too NEVER drive drunk...in fact, I don't drink, so I'm usually designated as a driver for others that might be drinking around me. Assuming that others that would have otherwise driven drunk may have avoided the checkpoint or caught a ride with a friend is not at all likely. The location of these checkpoints in Lake Elsinore are never publicly announced. The statement posted earlier, "no matter what the cost", sounds good if you read it just at face value. But, consider for just a moment what that really means. That statement indirectly implies that the 'state' should make DUI enforcement it's primary objective. It's disappointing when others parrot statements they've heard in the wild that are sentimentally charged without rational basis. I don't think the majority would agree to pay more taxes in order to support ALL costs to end drunk driving, or conversely, take away funding from other state programs in order to put an end to drunk driving. It seems that others here also agree that if the police are only able to catch one suspected DUI motorist through the trap, it's truly a waste of the state's 'road safety' grant funds. The only expense to setup a checkpoint is to pay the police officers their overtime to conduct them. Catching suspects for everything else other than a DUI (ie. possessing drugs, suspended driver's license, etc.) is not a effective way of making the roads safer. As a society, I think we have eliminated as much DUIs as we could reasonably expect. Let's use these grant funds in other programs that will substantially improve highway safety rather than eliminating a single DUI suspect in one evening. Suspected drunk drivers can be pulled over and investigated currently without violating our 4th amendment rights because we give that right up when we sign for our drivers licenses at the DMV. That doesn't mean that these checkpoints are in violation of our 4th amendment right because all of the other arrests would never have been made at these checkpoints unless one has agreed to allow a search of the vehicle or one was being stopped at one of these checkpoints. So, yes, I do agree that these checkpoints are designed to get around 4th amendment rights for everything other than DUI related activities. I'm surprised no one has posted one of my other favorite comments..."if it saves just one'. That's my other favorite sentimentally charged, yet irrational, comment that is hopefully eliminated from these otherwise intelligible discussions.
Kenny Smalley December 31, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Majority, the stats don't back up your statement. We have eliminated as many duis as we can expect? 802 people died in California last year from DUI related crashes, is that really the best we can do? IMO, the goal should be 0 deaths per year from drinking and driving. Drinking and driving is not simply a mistake and the law should stop treating it that way. IMO, California should take a page out of Arizona's book and start to follow their policy. First offense is punished by automatic jail time, 7 days in tent city...
Bd December 31, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Kenny, I agree with you on the automatic jail time. That should be a given. Hell, make it 30 days to really make the point of how we feel about the offense. What I don't agree with is stopping everyone on the road to weed out a very small percentage of people. I don't care that it only took DB less than a minute to get through...that's not the point. As free citizens we must draw the line.
Kenny Smalley December 31, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Again, the ultimate goal is to create a reputation that will deter people from driving through this area drunk. If they set up a DUI check point on lake street, railroad canyon, hot springs, Winchester, etc... There would be far less DUI caused deaths and DUIs in general. ________________________________ I am more than willing to take a minute out of my day if it makes my drive safer.
Bd December 31, 2013 at 01:50 PM
We've had this discussion before Kenny. If you want 100% safety (no deaths on the road) start by outlawing motorcycles altogether, then make car stereos illegal, drive-thru's need to go too since they may lead to a distraction, etc. The fight for safety comes down to what's reasonable. Reasonableness doesn't apply however to government agents forcefully interacting with a citizen who has done nothing wrong.
Kenny Smalley December 31, 2013 at 03:50 PM
I have conceded that we can't stop every death on the road but we can stop every death caused by a DUI.
The Majority December 31, 2013 at 04:00 PM
I wish we could eliminate all DUI related deaths. I wish we had the resources available to us to do that without taking away resources needed to sustain other similar goals. Unfortunately, one must consider the reality and not become to narrowly focused on a wish that's not realistically achievable. I know that is not necessarily the 'politically correct' view, but it's the soft reality. Let's unite by accepting realistic goals and not waste precious and scarce resources on those goals which are not achievable. It's not realistically possible to eliminate all DUI related deaths. I'm very empathetic for those families that must grieve for losses related to DUIs. We should all be empathetic and compassionate about those losses. Devoting 'all costs' necessary to eliminate DUI deaths is an invitation to a game of whack a mole...which ends with no winners.________________________________________________________________I don't agree that we should look to Arizona as a model to eliminate DUIs. They clearly haven't succeeded either. While they may have lowered DUI related deaths, they still haven't completely eliminated. If the goal is to eliminate, than we should look to other models which have been successful in doing just that. Perhaps, as one has commented earlier, eliminate cars, alcohol, bars, anything that could potentially be a distraction is the only sure method to succeed in that goal. It's just not reasonable. ________________________________________________________________Increasing penalties isn't a solution as well. Let's seriously think about that for a second. Extreme intoxication compromises our ability to rationalize, among many other things. Why would any of us believe that a severely intoxicated individual has the best chances of rationally choosing not to drive because the consequences are extreme? Lacking the ability to weigh consequences and rationalize choices are absent in that decision making process. Adding extreme consequences short of execution is more costly to the state and tax payers without directly resolving the cause. With DUI related bad choices, one must address the cause if they wish to lower DUI related traffic deaths.
The Majority December 31, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Another issue to address is the recidivism rate of DUI related offenses. I doubt I can post a direct link here (<!-- URL REMOVED-->), but a quick search on the internet will reveal that DUI related offenses have a higher rate of recidivism than murders and sex offenses. Clearly stiff penalties and consequences (fines, jail time, increased insurance costs, etc.) don't work for first time offense or repeat offenses. In fact, even checkpoints are less effective than saturation patrols (see a 2009 study conducted and cited in the Wikipedia).________________________________________________________________Checkpoints like these are, in fact, a violation of 4th amendment rights. The argument here isn't whether or not one has anything to hide or not. Without the 4th amendment, the government would be able to freely and without limits search each and every citizen as they choose. Our 4th amendment requires the government to have probable cause before it can conduct a search. As citizens, we have the right to decline a search request. In the case of this subject checkpoint, as I see it, 857 citizens were temporarily detained and implicitly asked if the could be searched. None of the 857 citizens were allowed to decline the search by allowing them to choose a different lane allowing them to pass through the checkpoint without additional questioning. Additionally, one cannot argue that there was any probably cause because only 3 out of at least 857 citizens were cited for any violations. These numbers do not support that it's not more likely than not that all of these 857 citizens that passed through the checkpoint were in violation of a safety compromising violation on that roadway. Allowing the government to conduct these illegal stops is a predecessor to a future illegal search. What if the government wishes to go to another extreme and require that every citizen before entering or using a roadway must submit to a 'safety check' each and every time before starting their vehicle? Becoming a society that incrementally becomes desensitized to these illegal searches is an invitation to future laws that are passed upon flawed arguments such as: "we should make our roadways safe at ALL costs" and "if it only save just one life, it's all worth it". This smells like the road to utopia to me (or shall I say 'distopia').
Warren December 31, 2013 at 07:42 PM
@ The Majority. I believe you have misstated a fact "only 3 out of at least 857 citizens were cited for any violations." the article said " 20 vehicles were stored or impounded for 30 days and 22 unlicensed and suspended drivers were sent to court." this was in addition to the 3 for driving under the influence. So are you saying that getting these other offenders cited and or potentially off the road don't count for anything? I have never seen 22 people get sited in 7 hr period by just driving around town. Have you?
Kenny Smalley December 31, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Majority, I have a way we can stop all DUI related deaths. Every new car will have a breathalyzer in it. Your car won't start if you blow over .08. ____________________________ Would you blow into a breathalyzer if it guaranteed you wouldn't get hit by a drunk driver? I would... _________________________ If we aren't willing to give up those "rights" the next best thing is to make punishments strict and increase jail time. Arizona has lowered their DUI rates every year with their system.


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