Archive for November 23rd, 2006

And Now….Seat Belt Roadblocks

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

You knew it was coming:

Chicago, IL Nov. 20 – For the first time in Illinois, local and state law enforcement officers will have nighttime seatbelt enforcement zones to ensure that drivers are buckling up, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.

The department's division of traffic safety will pay $1 million in overtime to police officers enforcing the state's seat belt law…

This year, 204 law enforcement agencies around Illinois will set up 360 nighttime seat belt enforcement zones around the holidays, in addition to 658 zones set up during the daytime. Officers will operate the zones much like alcohol checkpoints and will look at whether drivers are wearing seat belts.

You may recall my previous discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court's narrow decision in Michigan v. Sitz wherein DUI roadblocks (or, more politically correct, "sobriety checkpoints") were constitutionally challenged. Chief Justice Rehnquist admitted that they constituted searches in apparent violation of the Fourth Amendment, but concluded that this was just a "minimal intrusion" into our rights which was outweighed by the fact that "The increasing slaughter on our highways . . . now reaches the astounding figures only heard of on the battlefield".

And after seat belts, what next? Registration and proof of insurance? Identification roadblocks? Don't laugh: the Supreme Court has twice already said that "a similar roadblock to verify driver's licenses and registrations would be permissible to serve a highway safety interest". 

So where does it stop? This is what is known in the legal trade as precedent, also known as "opening the door": it does not stop.

(Thanks to Radley Balko at Reason .)

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