While MADD continues to praise the efficacy of DUI roadblocks (aka "sobriety checkpoints"), most experts have come to recognize that they are simply ineffective at apprehending drunk drivers. See Do DUI Roadblocks Work? and Do DUI Roadblocks Work? (Part II). But as I’ve written in earlier posts, local government has awakened to the fact that they are very effective at one thing: raising desperately needed money. See DUI: Government’s Cash Cow, How to Make a Million in the DUI Business and What if the Cash Cow Goes Dry?.
It is, of course, normally a violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment to set up roadblocks to issue tickets for outdated registration, equipment defects, outstanding warrants, etc. But the Supreme Court carved out one exception to the 4th Amendment: roadblocks to catch drunk drivers. And, well, if in the process the cops find no proof of insurance or an expired license, then those are "incidental" to the purpose of the roadblock and therefore permitted.
Problem: "sobriety checkpoints" have simply become subterfuges for issuing income-generating tickets. See for example, Another "Successful" DUI Roadblock: 3000 Drivers Stopped, 0 DUIs in which there were 177 citations, 84 vehicle impounds — and no DUI arrests. The following recent news story is typical:
DUI Checkpoint Stops 1,131 Vehicles
Gaineseville, FL. July 6 — DUI checkpoint over the holiday weekend resulted in 10 people being arrested and more than 100 drivers being issued traffic citations.
The Florida Highway Patrol arranged for the checkpoint to be set up in the 2500 block of Southwest 13th Street in Gainesville between 10 p. m. Friday until 2 a.m. Saturday. FHP Lt. Pat Riordan said that during that time, 1,131 vehicles were checked.
"We conduct these checkpoints to enforce and to educate," Riordan said. "It’s a way for us to bring the public’s attention to things like faulty equipment they need to fix as well as being a way for us to get people out from behind the wheel who do not belong there."
Although no one was arrested for DUI, FHP said the following actions were taken during the checkpoint:
–Two arrested on outstanding warrants.
— Seven arrested on felony charges, including six on drug-related charges.
— One arrested for misdemeanor drugs.
— 104 traffic citations issued.
— 10 faulty equipment warnings were issued.
Repeat: the Supreme Court made a roadblock exception to the Constitution for one limited purpose only: apprehending drunk drivers — not "to educate", not "as a way for us to bring the public’s attention to things like faulty equipment".
Once you start whittling away at the Constitution, it’s kind of hard to stop….
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