The idea for dwi/dui checkpoints was borrowed from the military in which random checkpoints have long been a practice in combat zones. Law enforcement likely considers American drivers to be the enemy in the ‘war to end drunk driving’ because sobriety checkpoints are increasing in cities and towns across the country and the fight is contentious.
A sobriety checkpoint is a roadblock set up by police in which the driver is required to stop and take a random breath and/or sobriety test to determine if he or she is too impaired to drive. If the officer determines the driver is inebriated or otherwise incapacitated then that person is arrested for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of marijuana.
The legality of sobriety checkpoints is in question however and there is increasing resistance to them by the average citizen who points to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution as reason to ‘cease and desist’ the practice. According to that statute ‘the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated’. Of course, there’s more but that is the crux of the law and a sobriety checkpoint runs counter to a promise made by the government to its people. How? Law enforcement is interfering with the lives of individuals without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. In addition, they put the individual in a circumstance that may be ‘self-incriminating’ (which, by the way, is also supposed to be impermissible and is yet another legal right insured to American citizens).
No one is arguing that the police should get drunk drivers off the road for everyone’s sake. They simply should not be using tactics that are not sanctioned by the Constitution and actually trample guaranteed civil rights.
There have been a number of court cases that challenge sobriety checkpoints over the years. One well-known case went all the way to the Supreme Court two decades ago. First the Michigan Supreme Court found ‘in favor’ of the people when it stated that sobriety checkpoints were unconstitutional. Of course it wasn’t going to stop there and after a time it landed at the doors of the Supreme Court who eventually reversed it – and thereby ignored the Constitution’s promise of unreasonable search and seizure – offering that sobriety checkpoints were necessary and it was more important to reduce drunk driving than to protect this particular right.
Needless to say – many of us disagree and believe that the deliberate erosion of one right sets a precedent that allows this to reoccur. In order to thwart police efforts to impose dwi checkpoints most defense attorneys advice the average citizen to refuse to take the breathalyzer test and only open their mouth to ask for a lawyer. However, right here in Texas a law was recently enacted – the ‘no refusal’ law – that states a person cannot refuse to take a breathalyzer test.
And so the battle rages on – and will most likely continue until there is a permanent solution that prevents a person from driving under the influence.