Category Archives: DUI Law

Are DUI Sobriety Checkpoints Effective?

For many years now, MADD has focused much of its considerable manpower (over 600 chapters), resources (revenues of over $51 million a year) and political influence on the proliferation of DUI roadblocks (or, to use the politically correct phrase, “sobriety checkpoints”). To justify this invasion of our privacy, we have been repeatedly assured that “checkpoints” are extremely effective in reducing alcohol-related traffic fatalities — and these assurances have been accompanied by statistics. Let’s take a closer look at these "statistics"….

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:

Hawaii
Nevada
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:

Georgia
Kentucky
Indiana
Iowa
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.

Washington State Says “No” to DUI Roadblocks

As many of you know, the United States Supreme Court in Michigan v. Sitz found that although sobriety checkpoints were apparent violations of the Fourth Amendment, they were only ”minor” violations.  Permitting police to stop citizens without reason to believe they had done anything wrong, Chief Justice Rehnquist said, was permissible in view of the government’s ongoing “War on Drunk Driving”.  (See my earlier post, ”DUI Sobriety Checkpoints: Unconstitutional?”)

Subsequently, politicians — fearful of MADD’s influence at the polls — have authorized the use of DUI roadblocks in 41 states.  Others, including Washington State, have rebelled at this refusal to protect their citizens’ right to privacy and have banned the practice by relying upon their own state constitutions. 

Recently, there has legislation proposed in Washington designed to avoid their own state Supreme Court’s ruling that DUI roadblocks were illegal.  The Governor of the state, Christine Gregoire, has very publicly thrown her political muscle behind the new bill…


DUI Roadblock Bill Dies in Olympia

Olympia, WA.  Seattle Times  –   Gov. Christine Gregoire suffered her first major defeat of the 2008 Legislature on Thursday when her push for drunken-driving checkpoints died without enough support from lawmakers…

But the plan encountered strong, bipartisan resistance in the Legislature. Critics said the Washington constitution’s privacy protections, which are stronger than those in federal law, prohibit police searches without a greater degree of suspicion.

Rep. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, said he heard loud and clear from constituents that the police roadblocks weren’t a good idea. He agreed.

“To me, this is a step away from letting the police stop us on the streets and search our pockets and our backpacks,” Kirby said.


It’s unfortunate that the politicans of so many other states are more concerned about MADD than about the rights of their citizens.      

Today, DUI Roadblocks…Tommorrow?

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 “safety” and “security” 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.

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:

Hawaii
Nevada
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:

Georgia
Kentucky
Indiana
Iowa
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.

Are DUI Checkpoint Roadblocks that Effective?

Ok, I’ve posted repeatedly in the past that so-called “sobriety checkpoints” are ineffective and unconstitutional, and are inreasingly used as revenue generators and illegal subterfuges to stop citizens for unrelated matters.  

Do they work?  At the risk of beating a dead horse….


Study Says DUI Checkpoints Ineffective

Phoenix, AZ, Dec. 14  –  Drunken driving checkpoints are costly and do little to prevent DUI-related traffic deaths, according to new data from the American Beverage Institute.

“The states that use roving patrols have an average of 7 percent fewer alcohol-related fatalities than those states that use checkpoints,” said Sarah Longwell of the Institute, which compiled the numbers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

She said some states “really see the value in increasing roving patrols over sobriety checkpoints, while others defend the practice, saying it’s a deterrent mechanism.”

Mesa Police have used mostly roving patrols in recent years, but checkpoints aren’t out of the picture, said Detective Steve Berry.

“We do use them, we don’t necessarily use them all the time, we just consider them another tool that we have in our bag,” said Berry. “The last one that we did here in Mesa was on Sept. 3 of this year, but prior to that, we had not done one in three to four years.”

Longwell said the checkpoints are costly and ineffective and issued a challenge to police looking for drunken drivers.  


An interesting law enforcement concept:  If they don’t work, don’t use them…..Unless they raise a lot of money for local government from unrelated license, registration and equipment citations, or are used illegally as deterrence or for stopping citizens for unauthorized reasons.