A man in Ohio has been arrested and is now challenging charges revolving around his attempt to warn motorists of an upcoming drunk driving checkpoint. The case out of Parma, Ohio represents the second time the man has been arrested for similar issues.
The man, Douglas Odolecki, spent hours on a busy Friday night holding up a sign warning drivers, “Check point ahead! Turn now!” Odolecki says he feels a calling to warn other drivers whenever he believes that injustice is taking place. Odolecki says he had a wild time as a young man and had several unfortunate encounters with police. Since then, he’s avoided any serious run-ins with authorities and has spent time trying to spare others a similar fate.
According to Odolecki, he has spent years warning drivers about various checkpoints around Parma, where lives. He has also traveled to Columbus and nearby suburbs of Cleveland to make similar warnings to drivers in those areas. Though drivers in the area may appreciate the head’s up, law enforcement officials are nowhere near as pleased with Odolecki’s presence.
According to a spokesperson with the Parma Police Department, officers approached Odolecki early on Friday evening after spotting the sign. Officials say they did not ask Odolecki to take down the sign in its entirety, only that he remove the “Turn now!” portion. Odolecki refused, saying that his First Amendment right to free speech allows him to say what he wishes while standing in a public space.
After refusing to take down the sign, police cited Odolecki for obstructing official business. The police say they believe they were in the right to issue a citation and say that prior run-ins with the man have led to lengthy consultations with government lawyers in an attempt to clarify what rights people like Odolecki have in such cases.
Back in 2012, Odolecki was arrested for the first time by Parma police for holding the exact same sign. At the time, he was also charged with carrying a concealed weapon because he had a knife in his pocket, a charge that was eventually dropped. Odolecki says that incident taught him to always carry a video camera to ensure the actions of the officer’s are on record.
He also began working with a local attorney who has taken his cases on pro bono. The attorney notes that local regulations state that police must warn the public before setting up DUI checkpoints and that drivers are legally allowed to avoid them. Given this, the attorney believes Odolecki’s actions were legal and will fight to have his charges dropped.
Minnesota, unlike Ohio, is one of 12 states that do not allow police officers to conduct sobriety checkpoints. In Minnesota, the state constitution specifically says that drivers must not be arbitrarily subjected to investigative traffic stops without there first being a suspicion of wrongdoing.
Source: “Ohio Man Cited For DUI Checkpoint Warning Sign,” by The Associated Press, published at HuffingtonPost.com.