DUI checkpoint locator apps under attack

Filed under: DUI Tags: by Steven F. Fairlie @ June 10, 2011

Apple Announces Last Call for DUI Checkpoint Applications

 DUI Checkpoint locator? Yes, there’s an app for that. But not for long. Under mounting pressure from Congress, Apple has followed RIM in banning DUI checkpoint apps from its proverbial app store.

 These controversial apps let iPhone and iPad users track when and where local authorities are conducting DUI checkpoints in their area. However, earlier this week Apple flagged developers by banning the offending apps. Specifically, the updated App Store Review Guidelines now read, “Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected.”

Given this language, it appears to be kosher for developers to relay information regarding DUI checkpoints as published by local police departments. Some police departments do in fact release this information prior to popular holidays as a further deterrent or reminder. Nevertheless, many of these apps also provide a forum for users to report and share information regarding checkpoints in their area. It is functions such as these – which are based on information that did not come from law enforcement  sources – that generate Congressional indignation in the fight against drunk driving. Indeed, one could argue that such an app comes close to a criminal act such as obstruction of justice or accomplice liability.  Under Pennsylvania law one is an accomplice if she assists another in committing a crime.

 Apple is not the first to succumb to pressures from regulators. In March, several senators wrote to Google, Apple, and RIM to express their growing concern in the use of location-tracking technologies in the realm of DUI enforcement. Soon thereafter, RIM removed the apps from BlackBerry App World, but they remained in the Apple App Store and Google Android Market.

While Apple has now issued its last call, as of this writing several existing DUI-oriented apps remain available in its app store including Buzzed ($0.99), DUI Dodger ($2.99), and MrDUI (free). Each of these applications provide a report function whereby users can share live information regarding area checkpoints.   

 While existing Apple DUI checkpoint apps remain in place and Google developers maintain a green light for all of their DUI checkpoint apps, it will be interesting to see Congress’s next move. Despite the last call, for now the bar remains open for apps designed to assist drunk drivers in avoiding DUI checkpoints.  Momentum is clearly building against the apps, so it will be interesting to see the next move state and federal legislators will make.

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