Growing Number of States Outlawing DUI Checkpoints

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on February 24th, 2012

In recent times, I’ve detected a growing backlash against the excesses of the hysterical "War on Drunk Driving" — and even of politicians willing to question "The DUI Exception to the Constitution" and thereby risk MADD’s wrath come election time.  See, for example, Backlash, Forced Blood Draws: Citizen Backlash? and Catheter Forced Up Penis After DUI Arrest,  

One of the most egregious examples of the damage to our constitutional rights is exemplified by DUI roadblocks, aka "sobriety checkpoints".  I’ve posted often in the past about the inherent unconstitutionality of this clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.  See Are DUI Roadblocks Constitutional?.  And I’ve explained how roadblocks are ineffective and the only real reason these roadblocks continue to be used is that they are "cash cows" — they generate a lot of revenue for local municipalities from citations and car towing (usually for license, registration, insurance or equipment violations).  See Do DUI Roadblocks Work?, DUI Roadblocks for Fun and Profit and The True Purpose of DUI Roadblocks.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld sobriety checkpoints (Michigan v. Sitz), Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote for the 5-4 majority that although stopping drivers at a checkpoint without probable cause was an apparent violation of the Fourth Amendment, it was only a "minimal intrusion" on the rights of citizens — outweighed by the greater interest of the government in ensuring safety on the highways.  The case was sent back to the Michigan Supreme court to revise its previous decision reversing the DUI conviction.  

The Michigan Supreme Court refused to reverse its decision, again throwing out the conviction — on the new grounds that if DUI roadblocks are not a violation of the U.S. Constitution, they are certainly a violation of the Michigan state constitution.  In other words, the court said to Washington, "If you won’t protect our citizens, then we will".

Since then, 9 other states have joined Michigan in relying upon their own constitutions or laws to ban "sobriety checkpoints" (Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Oregon and Minnesota), and 2 (Texas and Alaska) prohibit them for other legal reasons.

In today’s news, another state is on the road to joining this growing backlash….


House Passes Bill That Would Get Rid of DUI Checkpoints

Salt Lake City, UT.  Feb. 24
—  Citing protection of personal rights and upholding the Constitution, Utah’s House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill that would ban DUI checkpoints in Utah.

Under House Bill 140, which was approved 41-33, checkpoints for fugitives, Amber Alerts and invasive species would still be allowed. But the practice of having officers stopping every car at a specific location for a period of several hours — looking for drunken drivers — would be banned.

"This doesn’t seem very consistent with the very unique idea of American government and law enforcement that we have," said Rep. David Butterfield, R-Logan, the sponsor of the legislation, about DUI checkpoints…

Butterfield said that the data he has found in researching this bill shows that of the 11 states that do not use DUI checkpoints, about half are in the top half of traffic safety in the nation, while the other half are in the bottom half of states in regard to traffic safety.

"The data shows no correlation between safety with those that do practice checkpoints and those that don’t," Butterfield said…

Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, spoke in favor of the bill. Frank talked about his experience of being involved in a DUI checkpoint and stated that he felt his rights were being infringed upon while officers shone flashlights into his car searching for any questionable items, even though he gave no reason for police to suspect him of any crime.

"I was uncomfortable with that," Frank said.

Frank said he felt the practice of DUI checkpoints was well-intentioned but said that he felt that passing this legislation would help bring Utah back to upholding the Constitution and protecting people’s rights…

Butterfield’s proposal will now move on to the state Senate…


There would appear to be light at the end of this long, dark tunnel….
 

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