Daily Archives: January 15, 2008
My last post concerned the current efforts by the Governor of Washington to get legislation authorizing drunk driving roadblocks. This would trump their own Supreme Court's holding that these roadblocks violate the state constitution's prohibition against stopping citizens for no apparent reason. But it would appear that, once again, there is a growing backlash against this never-ending "War on Drunk Driving" — and on our Constitution. An example:
Stopping You for No Reason
Ridenbaugh Press, Jan. 8 – When Washington Governor Chris Gregoire was explaining on Monday her rationale behind her new security checkpoint program, she pointed out that we already have security stops and checks at courthouses and airports. In many of those places, we do; and the proposed expansion of governmental stops and checks of citizens who are minding their own business and violating no law is one of the exact reasons we disapprove of them so much. Where will the quest for â€œsafetyâ€ and â€œsecurityâ€ lead us next? How much more thoroughly will the Fourth Amendment be eviscerated in the name of keeping people safe?..
The freedom to travel from place to place without being stopped by government authorities – absent some specific reason why you should be – is core and central to freedom in America. Every one of these generalized stops and checkpoints of people undermines that, a point courts generally have upheld over the years, including courts in Washington when this kind of idea was proposed in the last decade.
And for DUI exclusively? You can see this coming: Agencies will want to piggyback other agendas on top of this one, just as the Patriot Act, supposedly solely an anti-terrorist measure, has been used much more for other purposes. Have no doubt, if this approach takes affect, it will happen. Where it will end, where its practical limits will be, remain unclear.
What this most specifically would accomplish would get Americans ever more accustomed to another stop and search routine of them by their government. And that is how the fourth amendment, and the sense of what it is to live in a free country, gets gradually whittled away.
As I've pointed out in the past, these so-called "sobriety checkpoints" are well-known to be ineffective in apprehending drunk drivers. Instead, they are increasingly being used as revenue generators and illegal subterfuges to stop innocent citizens for unrelated matters. Indeed, as the writer above has asked, where will it end? If you permit DUI roadblocks in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, this sets a precedent for other roadblocks – and, as at airports, serves to get citizens used to such governmental intrusions.