Monthly Archives: January 2008

Are DUI Roadblocks Effective?

I've railed in the past about the unconstitutionality of DUI roadblacks, aka "sobriety checkpoints", as well as their ineffectiveness.  Increasingly, they are being used as revenue generators and illegal subterfuges to stop innocent citizens for unrelated matters.  

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that the interests of the government in ensuring safety on the highways outweighs the clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, 11 states today ban DUI roadblocks by relying upon their own state constitutions to protect their citizens.  However, the governor of one of those states, Christine Gregoire, is now calling on the legislature to abandon that protection.

Gregoire Calls for Sobriety Checkpoints

Olympia, WA.  Jan. 8  –  Gov. Christine Gregoire wants the state Legislature to authorize police to set up sobriety spot checks, a practice unseen in Washington since the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1988…

The national and Pacific Northwest MADD organizations are targeting sobriety checkpoints and stricter laws for ignition interlocks as legislative priorities this year.

"Sobriety checkpoints work. The Centers for Disease Control says that in states where they have sobriety checkpoints, impaired driving crashes are usually 20 percent less than in states where they don't," said Judy Eakin, executive director of MADD's Northwest region.

As I've indicated in previous posts (e.g., "Lies, Damned Lies and MADD Statistics"), MADD is very fond of playing games with numbers.  Let's take a closer look at the statistics connecting roadblocks to reductions of accidents….

According to MADD's own website, 40 states have checkpoints and 10 do not. Well, it would be interesting to compare the states with the highest percentage of alcohol-related fatalities with the list of states not using checkpoints: If MADD is correct, the states with the highest fatality rates will be the no-roadblock states. Fortunately, another section of MADD’s website provides such statistics for each of the states. The 5 states with the highest alcohol-related fatality rates:

North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina

According to MADD, all 5 states should be non-checkpoint states. In fact, however, 4 of these states use checkpoints; only Rhode Island does not. Well, what about the 5 states with the lowest fatality percentages? They are:

New York

If MADD is correct about the effectiveness of checkpoints, these should all be checkpoint states. But as with the previous list, only 4 of the states permit the use of sobriety checkpoints; Iowa does not. As with the previous list, the percentage is what one would expect from pure random incidence: 20% of the states (10 of 50) do not have checkpoints and 20% of the states on each list (1 of 5) do not use checkpoints. There appears to be no correlation between fatality rates and the use of checkpoints.

Let’s take a look at another set of statistics: the effect of the proliferation of checkpoints on the national rate of alcohol-related fatalities. If checkpoints are effective, we would expect to find that alcohol-related fatalities will have declined since their widespread acceptance in recent years .

Again, the statistics do not support this. To use MADD's own numbers: Since 1982, the number of fatalities nationwide from alcohol-related crashes has declined every year until about 1993, when it dropped to 17,908. Perhaps coincidentally, this was the year after the United States Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints were not unconstitutional. In the 10 years since then, sobriety checkpoints have gained widespead acceptance — but the number of fatalities have levelled off, vacilating between 17,908 and 17,013. Far from supporting MADD’s position, one could even argue that this proves sobriety checkpoints have actually halted the steady decline in alcohol-related deaths. This would probably be incorrect — but indicative of how statistics can be used to serve a desired objective.


Is the tide finally turning?  For years I’ve expected to see a backlash from the citizens of this country as politicians and judges continue to bow to MADD’s hysterical crusade against drinking (and, secondarily, drunk driving) and whittle away at the Bill of Rights and basic concepts of justice and fairness.  Recently, however, there seems to be an increasing number of isolated voices of reason arising from the wilderness.  In yesterday’s media….

A Better Way to Go After Drunk Drivers

KOMO-TV News, Seattle.  Jan. 7  –   So now the governor wants to get tough on drunk driving…

The governor’s idea is to set up sobriety checkpoints so that police can arbitrarily stop anyone out driving on a particular stretch of road at a particular time.

In other words, it’s about showmanship over substance.

I don’t like sobriety checkpoints.  Not because I have any interest in protecting drunk drivers, but because I’m not too keen on giving up another piece of our constitutional rights.

Call me simplistic, but I’m kind of partial to those 4th amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

So while I’m all for Governor Gregoire getting tough on drunk driving, I’d prefer something more direct, like actually going after drunk drivers while leaving the rest of us sober folks alone.

Obviously an unpatriotic, wife-beating, alcohol-abusing radical.

Instant Suspension of DUI Suspect Licenses

Crosses Line

Phoenix Tribune.  Jan. 7  –  Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix, has decided to continue a reckless vendetta against drunken driving and he seems willing to sacrifice our civil liberties and every bit of common sense in his rush to save just one more life.

A set of new DUI laws recognized as among the toughest in the country, including the mandated use of ignition interlock devices for a year on a person’s first misdemeanor conviction, has been in effect for less than three months. We have no idea if more jail time, higher fines and a physical barrier to driving after drinking will be wildly successful, an abject failure or fall somewhere in between…

State law already requires police to physically take away the driver’s license of DUI suspects. But they receive a temporary permit in return, giving the motorists an opportunity to challenge a license suspension at a state administrative hearing. As driving is considered a privilege, not a right, the standard in such cases is lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” DUI suspects can lose their driver’s license for 90 days even if they eventually defeat the criminal charges.

But at least a truly innocent person has a chance to appeal to an authority not beholden to the police before they lose access to a daily part of most people’s lives that often is critical to keeping a job and caring for a family.

Waring’s bill would deny even this minimal version of the due process of law. A DUI suspect anywhere in the state instantly would be powerless to drive, even if the police don’t yet have any physical evidence of intoxication (such as breath or blood test results)…

SB1008 completely disregards the American notion of “innocent until proven guilty” and would push Arizona much closer toward a police state in which judges and other independent arbiters of justice are irrelevant relics.

Obviously another rabble-rousing, child-molesting, communist pervert.

TV’s DUI SuperCops in Action

I've commented in the past about the emerging phenomenon of "DUI SuperCops", and a few days ago about a new TV series starring the heroic DUI warriors of the Fresno Police Department.  Let's look in on our new media stars….

Dozens Arrested In Fresno DUI Crackdown

Fresno, CA.  Jan. 1  –  Fresno police say despite heavy publicity about their crackdown on drinking and driving, more than 2 dozen arrests were made by police and CHP officers this New Year's holiday…

Eric Eide, Fresno Police Department, says "The 16 DUI's that we did arrest, people were snockered. They were passed out drunk in front of their cars; they were combative when we were taking blood from some of them. Lots of them were banged up from fighting with other people." 

Forgive the cynicism born of many years in this business, but permit me to interpret this summary from TV's new DUI SuperCops:

1.  "They were passed out drunk in front of their cars."  News flash for SuperCops: The crime of drunk driving requires driving — not sleeping it off to avoid drunk driving.

2.  "They were combative when we were taking blood from some of them."  What would you be if you were pinned to the ground by two cops while needles were jammed into you, digging around painfully for a vein?

3.  "Lots of them were banged up from fighting with other people."  Official explanation for "lots of" arrestees' cuts. bruises and assorted injuries.  

Look for announcements of MADD awards to Fresno P.D. in the very near future.