A Growing Backlash Against DUI Roadblocks?
Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows how I feel about the efficacy and constitutionality of DUI roadblocks (aka "sobriety checkpoints"). See, for example, Do DUI Roadblocks Work?, Do DUI Roadblocks Work? (Part II), DUI Logic: Roadblocks Effective Because They're Ineffective, and Are DUI Roadblocks Constitutional?.
Recently, I've read some news articles and editorials that lead me to believe there is a growing backlash against these police-state procedures. The following is from the Editorial Board of the Colorado Springs Gazette:
Opinion: Cops Detain 1,407 Innocent Drivers
Colorado Springs, CO. Sept. 6 – Colorado Springs police detained 1,420 drivers last Saturday in yet another ineffective effort to catch drunken drivers. As a result of detaining thousands of drivers and countless passengers, police cited eight — a whopping .56 percent — on suspicion they had driven under the influence. Meanwhile, cops working the checkpoints were not on the roads providing legitimate public safety.
This part is weird: Five others were cited for open containers. Imagine driving through a swarm of police, who are stopping vehicles and looking into them, with an open beer.
Drunk drivers kill. Those who drink, even a little, have no business getting behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle for the rest of the day. Just don’t do it for any reason.
Society needs to eradicate drunken driving, but sobriety checkpoints are not the answer. They violate the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unlawful searches and seizures. They are permissible under the Supreme Court’s 1990 ruling in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, a case in which the majority decided to allow an erosion of liberty to facilitate a compelling interest in reducing fatalities. Checkpoints would be easier to accept if they actually improved public safety.
“The net effect of sobriety checkpoints on traffic safety is infinitesimal and possibly negative,” wrote Justices Paul Stevens, William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall in their Michigan v. Sitz dissent.
Most public safety experts acknowledge that traditional policing, in which officers look for drunken drivers while patrolling, is more effective. Law enforcement brass like checkpoints because they create overtime pay. An investigation by the University California found that checkpoints generate $30 million in annual overtime pay in California alone. Checkpoints, which are funded with transportation grants, are public relations stunts…
Our police are supposed to protect and serve the public, not detain individuals to generate publicity and overtime pay. Please take a pass on future checkpoint grants in Colorado Springs and use traditional methods to catch drunk drivers.
The fact is that most roadblocks are increasingly a means of illegally using DUI roadblocks as an excuse for stopping vehicles to find minor violations such as equipment violations, expired car registrations and drivers licenses not in possession. See my posts, DUI Roadblock: 1131 Stops, 114 Tickets, 0 DUI Arrests, Another "Successful" DUI Roadblock: 3000 Drivers Stopped, 0 DUIs, DUI Roadblocks for Fun and Profit and The True Purpose of DUI Roadblocks.
As long as local governments continue to rake in desperately-needed revenues from these fraudulent police practices, "DUI" roadblocks will continue.