By on May 26, 2007

vermont-cops.jpgWhen it comes to police roadblocks designed to catch drunk drivers, the public is conflicted . On one hand, there are plenty of people who believe that any anti-drunk driving law enforcement practice that saves even one life is fully justifiable. On the other hand, many Americans consider a police roadblock a quasi-fascist police tactic: an unconstitutional violation of their legal right to travel without facing [what they consider to be] indiscriminate search and seizure. Guess which way the American Beverage Association (ABI) comes down on the issue.

In these politically correct times, you might think the ABI would support ANY anti-drunk driving initiative, no matter how draconian. Nope. On the cusp of the traditional Memorial Day drink-driving law enforcement crackdown, the restaurant trade association “dedicated to protecting the on-premise dining experience” voiced their vehement opposition to random roadblocks.

“These police anti-drunk driving roadblocks target responsible adults who drink legally and responsibly before driving,” prnounced spokesperson Sarah Longwell. “They are all too easily avoided by the repeat offenders and chronic abusers who make up the overwhelming majority of today's drunk driving problem."

The ABI's press release cites a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study concluding that roving police patrols are almost three times more effective at apprehending drunk drivers than “random” roadblocks. In a telephone interview, Longwell said her organization’s anti-roadblock stance is more than a matter of stats. It reflects simple common sense.

“Which sounds more effective,” Longwell asked. “Putting cops on the streets and the highways who are trained to look for drunk and impaired drivers, or pulling them off the streets, making them stand at one place, and just check everybody who comes through to see if they may or may not be drinking.”

Longwell denies the suggestion that the ABI is trying to protect members whose customers may not drink due to possible police roadblocks– which would reduce the restaurant owners’ profits. She says her organizations’ “sober training certification program” proves that restaurants are doing their best to stop drunk driving.

“Our program teaches bartenders, waiters and waitress, the people on the ground, how to not over-serve, and how to spot people who are overly intoxicated and appear to be driving… A lot of it is about cutting off the service at a certain time or calling cabs, ensuring that they don’t get in the car if they’ve had too much.”

The ABI’s efforts to stem drunk driving at the source are to be commended, but their anti-roadblock arguments may be less compelling than they seem. Their press release quotes stats prepared with what can only be called fuzzy logic. For example: “The 11 states that do not operate roadblocks experienced 91 fewer alcohol-related fatalities collectively in 2005 compared to 2004.”

What’s more, TTAC could only find one recent NHTSA alcohol-related study: “Creating Impaired Driving General Deterrence: Eight Case Studies of Sustained, High-Visibility, Impaired-Driving Enforcement.” While the ABI may have crunched NHTSA’s numbers independently, the report does not conclude that roving patrols are three times more effective than roadblocks.

There’s also persuasive evidence to suggest that police roadblocks ARE successful at deterring drunk drivers. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report published in the December 2002 issue of Traffic Injury Prevention, police implemented “sobriety checkpoints” decrease alcohol-related car crashes by about 20 percent.

The CDC review was based on 23 “scientifically-sound” international studies. The results were roughly identical, regardless of whether or not police checkpoints were short-term “blitzes” or operated continuously over several years.

No matter how drunk drivers are apprehended, the ABI believes that not offenders are alike. Unlike zero tolerance crusaders like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Longwell’s organization lobbies for graduated penalties: ankle bracelets for hard core repeat offenders, less severe penalties for infrequent or less intoxicated drivers.

In this, the ABI is swimming against the tide. State laws against drunk driving are becoming increasingly severe. Many states (e.g. Kansas, Indiana and Georgia) have adopted “Habitual Violator Laws” that impose felony penalties for three DUI convictions, including the permanent loss of the violator’s legal right to drive and more limited prohibitions against voting or owning a firearm.

According to the Department of Justice, in 2005, police arrested nearly 1.4m drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. In that same year, 16,885 people, some 39 percent of all traffic-related deaths, were killed in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. And a CDC report found “insufficient evidence” to recommend the use of designated driver programs.

All of which leaves us where we started, with police roadblocks aimed at preventing/stopping drunk drivers. While you can understand the ABI and civil-rights-minded citizens’ distaste for police roadblocks, the questions must still be asked: what have we got to lose?

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55 Comments on “Restaurant Industry: Just Say No to Police Roadblocks...”

  • avatar

    As a future attorney, it is one of my professional goals to end police DUI checkpoints as unconstitutional.

  • avatar

    How, in legal terms, are a police roadblock and a pull over any different? Is it because the police have to have cause to check your BAL so they need to see you driving like a moron first?

    I’m not being sarcastic, I genuinely want to know.

  • avatar

    How, in legal terms, are a police roadblock and a pull over any different

    Yes, pull overs are probable cause, roadblocks are stopping everybody just for driving.

    I used to be for them…until I talked with a judge who said it would be more effective and less intrusive to just have a cop sit in front of a bar and watch everyone leaving. First person who staggers to their car–bam–pull them over and get a DUI.


  • avatar

    What’s the Ben Franklin quote, those who would trade security for liberty deserve neither? Given that in my wondrous state the most popular time for massive speed traps on I-5 is 8:30 on a Sunday morning, you will pardon me if I look at much of this askance. A road block does not even pretend to differentiate between law abiding citizens and “criminals”, it just casts a net and then drags everyone in. I remember 35 years ago a police officer saying that sitting in one place was bad policing, you just couldn’t see as much as when you were moving around. But I am sure he retired long ago….

  • avatar

    I don’t see roadblocks as being unconstitutional or offensive. Driving isn’t a right, it’s a privilege that assumes all drivers are responsible and obeying the law. We know this isn’t true, and we look away when others are doing 68 in a 65. That doesn’t make DUI any less of an offense, particularly given its proven lethality. It’s not a right to not get stopped, it’s a duty to others to not drink and drive.

    Effectiveness is another thing. I have a hunch checkpoints and patrols having differing effectiveness in different cities. Ina dense urban environment where there are many alternative routes, I doubt their ability to catch a savvy drunk.

  • avatar

    I think checkpoints are illegal in the state where I reside (TX). Nevertheless, I saw a sobriety test being administered on the way home last night. Having had a few (but stopped long before getting behind the wheel) I just took it nice and slow going home. The bottom line is, if you are that toasted and driving, they will get you. Maybe not today but someday. Hopefully before it’s too late.

  • avatar

    CliffG: Washington St. is fantastic, is it not?

  • avatar

    They are unconstitutional–it is unlawful search and seizure without reasonable suspicion of a crime having been committed. While driving is, in fact, a priviledge granted by licensing, you have the right to travel unencumbered. A hallmark of the US of A is unrestricted freedom of movement as opposed to Nazi Germany’s “Papers, please” dragnets. On a more philosophical and less realistic note, the logical extreme of police checkpoints is when officers arrive at your door unannounced to search you house on the off chance that a “terrorist” took up residence in the neighborhood. This is perhaps a more clear violation of the 4th ammendment. Rather, it *WAS* a violation of the 4th ammendment before the PATRIOT Act pared down the Bill of Rights.

    A police officer observing a moving violation, however, has every right to stop the suspect as there is reasonable suspicion of a crime in progress.

    On a personal (and not legal) note, I don’t see how the “Habitual Violator Laws” justify taking away the right to vote and the right to own firearms. Waving a firearm around a movie theater or holding up a gas station would justify the loss of the right to own guns, but driving habits…please. And voting? How will we ever get laws changed if those who care are denied the right to vote?

    I am all for strict but fair DUI laws. DUI absolutely is a matter of public safety, and it should be treated as such, not as a means of revenue collection. In my state 2 beers in 90 minutes will put me over the legal limit. 4 beers in that amount of time would still not be enough to make me a danger to others. As it is, I simply don’t drink (at all) if I’m going to be driving. Legal limits should be raised to realistic danger levels: say .2% or .3% BAC, and violators should be charged with attempted murder. I guarantee that faced with 20 years to life in prision, DUI offenders will cease their activities. The streets will be free of scum, and normal people may resume having two glasses of wine with a fine dinner.

  • avatar

    Driving may be a privilege rather than a right, but the roadblock is still wrong. While you may not have a “right” to drive, you do have a right to travel unharrassed. Once you earn the privilege of driving, you do not give up any of your other rights just because you exercise that privilege.

    Your time on the planet is finite, and having a roadblock is nothing more than a micro jail sentence.

    Has anyone done the math? How many people for how many minutes do you have to hold up before you wasted more minutes than you saved by preventing a fatality? Seriously.

    Governments and other large institutions constantly make bad decisions that tax our time to save lives without doing the simple math of figuring out how much little death they are spreading around instead.

  • avatar

    If a police roadblock is unconstitutional, there is something very wrong with the constitution.

  • avatar

    The forefathers ratified the Constitution understanding it to be a concordat specifically delineating the authority of the Federal Government. We all know how that went. However, since the police at the check points are not Feds, the state governments have slightly more latitude to act on their own discretion on these matters (until the Supreme Court intervenes). I would prefer the matter to be decided by a plebicite. How many instances are there of peoples cars being searched? I have been through several checkpoints and never had my car searched.

  • avatar

    It’s good to hear that the penalties for drunken driving are increasing. When I was pulled over for going 100 on a clear road on a clear day in a sport compact, I ended up paying a huge fine. I wont argue with that, but what annoyed me is that the person who went ahead of me in court had a DUI and only received probation!

  • avatar

    Police roadblocks CAN be a good idea. However, the beverage industry has a point: In today’s tech/networked world and the ability to scan license plates quickly, why not allow those on probation from DUI (or ANY serious traffic offense) to be pulled over anytime (as a condition of their probation)?

    Regarding constitutionality, there’s more logic and consistency in a toddler’s coloring book than the Supreme Court’s opinions on search and seizure. (Unless you define logic as maximizing employment prospects for attorneys…)

    Regarding DUI…
    In many jurisdictions, DUI is a BUSINESS – for the state, the attorneys and for the shrink/counseling profession.

    Take NY State. If you have the means, you’re fined and legal billed $5K+. If not, you’re given break after break and warning after warning before seeing a (revenue negative) jail cell. Misdemeanor pleas are common (and multiple misdemeanors do NOT count against you). Leniency for those connected Huge amounts of judicial discretion in sentencing ARE the law.

  • avatar

    many Americans consider a police roadblock a quasi-fascist police tactic

    Until their daughters are killed by a drunk driver.

  • avatar

    Here in California I would be thrilled to see a massive enforcement step up of all the driving rules. Speeding well in excess of 10 over the limit, red light running, passing on double yellows and more are so common place that I wonder where the cops are.

    The idea that the drinking establishments are “people on the ground” acting as the first line of defense against drunk driving is nuts. How many people do you think leave a Happy Hour and drive when well over the legal limit? How often does your typical bar shut someone off for having more than one drink per hour? The ABA has no credibility on this.

  • avatar

    you make a decent point. however, as stated above, roadblocks stopping tons of DUI law compliant drivers are not as effective as roving patrols pulling over drivers exhibiting signs of intoxication.

    similar arguements often end in “if it saves just one life, it’ll be worth it.” well, maybe. but if you used effective tactics, you could have saved five.

    if a tactic is less effective and of dubious legality, it’s time to rethink the gameplan.

  • avatar

    I hate that, as I walk down the street, an officer can stop me and ask for identification without having any reason to suspect me of a crime. If I don’t/can’t produce, I can go to jail. I would prefer the officers watch for suspicious behavior before pulling someone aside.

    Right now, I want to know why a man in my county, after his second homicide while DUI conviction, is only going to jail for 10 years? He has killed three teenagers now. There is a minimum 5 year suspension of your license for DUI here. He was driving under a suspended license the second time he killed.

  • avatar

    An officer technically can ask you whatever he wants as you walk down the street. Unless he has reasonable suspicion, you can refuse to answer his questions or (in most states) give up your ID. If he has reasonable suspicion, it is called a Terry stop, and the officer can search you for weapons. A common traffic stop is also a Terry stop… The officer has reasonable suspicion based on the fact that he caught you speeding, driving erratically, etc… However, a checkpoint without reasonable suspicion is unconstitutional for the reasons stated (very well, I might add) previously on this forum. Just because the police are spreading suspicion over a bunch of people does not make it reasonable. Like a previous poster said, the law would be better served if an officer waited at the exit to a bar and pulled over every drunk driver he saw. I realize it is difficult for someone who has had a loved one killed by a drunk driver; however, we must realize that we live in a country where there are certain times when we are willing to sacrifice lives so that our freedom can be preserved. It is a harsh truth to someone who has had a loved one killed, but a truth nonetheless. Freedom has a price – something that Mr. Franklin clearly did not understand (“those who would trade security for liberty deserve neither” – if that quote was indeed his). He certainly affixed his name to a document that does just that.
    All this being said, the fact remains that the checkpoint stops are legal and approved by the Supreme Court. See Michigan v. Sitz. Despite my opinions to the contrary, they are constitutionally allowed until the Supreme Court changes its opinion.
    Further we must remember that the original article was about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of roadblock checkpoint DUI stops. I think it is very interesting, and logical that these stops do little to end drunken mayhem on our roads. Effectiveness should usually never be an excuse to justify an unconstitutional measure (a traditional argument with the Patriot Act) However, the demonstrated ineffectiveness of these checkpoints takes the effectiveness argument out of the equation and would potentially make it easier to get the legality of the stops overturned.

  • avatar

    I’ve been through “DUI checkpoints”, and they are not only a colossal waste of time and money by the police, but they remind me of the old WW II movies where the Nazi’s ask you a lot of questions that are really none of the police department’s business. If they have reasonable cause is one thing, but they have no reason to stop everyone on a road just because MADD has influenced gutless politicians.

    I also like where they proceed to search your car with flash lights on both sides of your car while asking you a series of questions. It is just another sign of how passive modern Americans have become because we are all children that cannot be trusted by those in power.

    I know the loaf of bread I just bought at Kroger could cause me to hallucinate if it was contaminated with mold, but come on!

  • avatar

    Lots of casuistry here, both from the ABI and in the posts.

    I have had the somewhat questionable privilege of being stopped by police in Australia, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the UK and the US. The only time I was in real trouble was in the US, where (fortunately) one of the passengers was very well connected and all charges were dropped. (How’s that for constitutional?)

    Aren’t we missing the point? Some of those stops above were for speeding. I broke the law.
    I have (unfortunately) driven while intoxicated to the point where I shouldn’t have been driving. Got home OK. Spare me the “how could you’s?” since this is far from uncommon. Police roadblocks are there to find people who, as I did, don’t want to spend money on a cab or go somewhere to sleep it off before getting behind the wheel.
    Drunk drivers are proportionally involved in more accidents than are sober drivers – which is why one tries to keep them from getting behind the wheel. Once there, they should be stopped. So what’s the best way?

    Putting police outside bars is not effective, because there are a hell of a lot of bars.
    Having police go fishing for drivers who are slow at intersections, weave about the road or erratic with their signals is also not as effective as …

    Placing a roadblock at a point where traffic from numerous bars must pass in order to access larger roadways.
    Do I own the road? No.
    Are there rules governing the use of the road? Yes.
    Do several of these rules define a level of intoxication that should not be exceeded if one wants to use the road? Yes.
    Should my right to drive drunk – apparently constitutionally protected in the US – supersede the right of others to feel safe on the road?

    turkeey above argues that Freedom has a price, which in his opinion seems to include that society must accept drunk driving deaths to third parties in accordance with Ben Franklin’s dictum. As I surmise turkeey is studying to be a lawyer I trust he’ll get less sophomoric when he really starts hitting the books.

    Consider roads a restricted arena, providing a benefit you wish to enjoy. In order to use the road, you should have a well maintained, insured and registered vehicle, be in possession of a driver’s license and your faculties. You should not have wilfully impaired or have sought to misrepresent said faculties in order to gain illegal access to the road.

    Is it unconstitutional to have blocks outside sports arenas or concert venues? These seek to ascertain that you have paid for access – in later years also that you are not carrying concealed weapons, etc.
    These blocks weed out freeloaders, drunks and potential criminals intent on injuring other spectators.
    Likewise at the airports or other places of mass transit or critical infrastructure.

    As turkeey will discover, certain rights and privileges can (and are) temporarily suspended to the benefit of all, perfectly in accordance with the Constitution. (And common sense – something Ben Franklin was also solidly in favor of).
    The ABI sounds as silly above as did the people who protested having to wear seatbelts. Back then jackets were sold with a diagonal black stripe across the front. Drivers seemed to be wearing seatbelts, and were probably pleased to be giving a finger to the law, until they smashed their faces through the steering wheel.

    That said. The two police officers in Australia who managed to have their colleagues put up a roadblock when I outran them, which finally managed to stop me, were perfectly within their rights. I was a potential danger to myself and others.
    What if I instead was Australian BarBQ drunk, and driving straight as a line at the limit — any less dangerous?

    If it’s any comfort, police roadblocks fishing for drunks demonstrate that there aren’t as many drunk drivers about as one could fear – but they are very good both at weeding out the drunks and at having people think twice before getting behind the wheel. (Which could be why there are fewer drunks on the road where roadblocks are used).

  • avatar

    Just a few points they were doing mandatory police pat down searches at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium for football games. A high school civics teacher sued. He won. In the US we have a presumption of innocence it is guranteed by our constitution.

    Having said that there are ways around that, I was told in Florida that the sobriety checkpoints are legal because they are all publicized ahead of time in the newspaper and radio with the times dates and locations which they are if one knows where to look).

    I also had the pleasure of being stopped for a “courtesy license and registration check” along with drug sniffing dog when I travelled across Aligator Alley in South Florida. There was a huge Police dragnet. I was told by a lawyer friend if they ask to search your car if you say no they won’t search it but they bring by a drug sniffing dog.

    I was also told that the police can detain you, put you in jail for up to 24 hours without any charges.

    Thats why I am always nice to cops. However we still have rights that not all western democracies share.

    I have a friend from northern Ireland her family came over in the late 70s due to the civil unrest. The whole family becme American citizens. When they went back for a visit in the early 80s they rented a car in Northern Ireland to visit a relative. There was no place to park so they went a few blocks down and parked the car on the main road and walked to their relatives house. After the greetings they were asked where they had parked. When they mentioned that they had parked down the street their host grabbed the keys from my friends and raced to move the car. They were told the British Army when on patrol would blow up parked cars on the road that they were not familiar with.

    On another visit there was an explosion at the Irish post office where my friends mother had gone to mail a letter. The british army arrived and grabbed my friends mother and threw her in an armored car to be questioned at their post. My friends mother protestedb that she was an American citizen. Since she had an Irish accent they didn’t believe her and one of the soldiers replied “and I’m John Wayne.” When she produced her ID they stopped the armored car and let her out where the car had stopped.

    I don’t wish to give up my constitutional rights for any purported good purpose.

  • avatar

    @ Sherman

    I think that regions with civil war are probably not good examples to use as counterarguments, or?
    It is quite possible to refuse to be examined at roadblocks in Europe. Depending upon the country, the reactions differ — in some countries you’ll have to park the car and get a cab.

    A story making the rounds, purportedly true.

    The car of the British ambassador to Denmark was halted at a police roadblock set up along the scenic coastal road littered with estates, north of Copenhagen.
    In Denmark, there’s a set list of questions the police will go through.
    “Have you imbibed any alcohol today, sir?”
    “Yes, I have.”
    “How many ‘items’?”
    “Well. Let’s see. There was the welcome drink, some Kir concoction I didn’t much approve of. And then there were several Dry Martinis, to which I’m partial. Very dry. There was a selection of rather good wines at dinner. Followed by a quite excellent single malt – can’t recall how many I had of those, but wish I had the bottle with me now. I skipped the brandy, of course.”
    “You’re inebriated, then?”
    “You shouldn’t be driving then, sir.”
    “No, and it’s a good thing I’m not. My driver is sober, though.”

    The policeman hadn’t noticed that the steering wheel was on the opposite side.

  • avatar

    One point I didn't include in the piece: in 56% percent of alcohol-related automotive fatalities, the victim or victims weren't wearing their seatbelt. Make of that what you will.

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    What’s the Ben Franklin quote, those who would trade security for liberty deserve neither?
    I get you’re point Cliff,but I would rather use this qoute in relation to discussions involving something like the Patriot Act.Perhaps wire-taps,surrevaliance,ect.—did I just butcher that word or what?

    Ben Franklin always said we should question authority and rightly so.He also lived in a time when getting plastered on pints would result in a quater-horse simply tossing its drunk passenger/rider on their respective rumps.

    Do I like checkpoints?I believe they are effective but I dont want to endure them on a daily basis.Are they a threat against the Constituition?,they serve the need to remove drunks driving around & take away the possibilities that an impaired driver brings.Its also a way to let the public know law enforcement takes this offence seriously.

    I like to party and have a good time as much as the next guy,but I line up my night with a designated driver or cab,hotelroom,a rather long walk ect.If I cant I stay home.

  • avatar

    Someone in this thread said there was something wrong with the constitution. Really you should study it. I hate to bring up Bush… but the current administration has used every trick in the book to use fear to get us to be willing to give up the constitution. Well fortunately it hasn’t happened entirely. People are starting to wake up and realize they don’t want to live in a country akin to nazi germany or the ussr. People should also study history and realize that hitler used an event very similar to 9/11 to gain power – the burning of the Reichstag. To the person who said that anyone would support police checkpoints if their daughter died in a dui… I strongly disagree. I don’t think saving a life, anyone’s life is worth living in fascism. At one time all americans felt that way. As has been stated, there are better ways to police drunk drivers in any case.

  • avatar

    Well, didn’t take long for Godwin’s law to exercise its force on this discussion.

  • avatar

    Stein X Leikanger:
    re: Godwin
    Yup, you’re correct. And I’ll admit that I was the one to do it. In this case, though, it’s warranted. It is no stretch of the imaginiation: Ihre Papiere, bitte!

    certainly not the same as calling someone an environazi or something.

  • avatar

    I think that the issue of police roadblocks is a question of what you are looking to catch. If the only goal is to get any intoxicated driver off the road, then I can see the point. However, intoxicated does not necessarily mean dangerous. I have on a few occaisions driven home from a short distance after no more than 2-3 drinks being in my system. This is generally a short distance (no more than 15 minutes) and I drive slower and leave more distance. In general, my impairment is less than that of a driver using a cell phone (legal in my state). Yet, if I am randomly stopped and happen to blow over the limit (which might be barely over), I get a DUI. Yet, I am not a danger on the road. The problem with drunk driving laws is that resonsible adults are forced to guess at their level of intoxication and may be wrong. As a person that needs to drive in many cases, I think that bars should be required to have breathalizers on premises. That way if I am over the legal limit, I can order a soda and wait an hour.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    @NICKNICK: While I appreciate your citation of the 4th Amendment, can you please cite the chapter and verse of the PATRIOT Act which allowed searches without probable cause? Most of the administration’s legal follies are based on an overextended reading of the powers granted by the authorization for use of millitary force (AUMF), not the PATRIOT Act.

    There is a very good argument to be made that random roadblocks are unconstitutional. Even more disturbing is the inaccuracy of most roadside sobriety tests. I’m not sure I could pass some of them sober!

    DUI laws are very similar to hate crime laws in that they punish the reason for behavior rather than the behavior itself. It is true that an intoxicated driver is a risk even if he or she does not run afoul of the law on one particular instance; however, there is no comprehensive enforcement scheme which can catch drivers who are a risk even when they are not currently engaging in risky behavior. This includes drivers who are likely to hold cell phone conversations or eat breakfast behind the wheel, too. We need to focus on punishing those whose actual behavior merits it regardless of the cause for the poor driving, and over time this will catch the habitual drunk drivers as well.

    As an aside, a local adult with moderate mental retardation was just granted his license on his fifth try of the driving test. I would argue that he is as much of a risk due to his permanent condition as any drunk driver, yet the state just granted him a license.

  • avatar

    It’s the insurance companies that are pushing for stricter enforcement and sweeps – and as they like saying, once the insurance companies are on a case, nothing will stop them.

    They’ll want to put breathalyzers in cars, not bars. :-)

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I see both sides of the argument.

    You really do catch more impaired drivers when roadblocks are introduced. You also manage to catch more folks who are driving without insurance, driving with a suspended license, and those who are transporting drugs and other illegal goods. You can also pick up more than your fair amount of folks that have a warrant for their arrest.

    The question is whether it’s worth it… and whether it’s a just act.

    In my mind, the only time it is warranted is when there is an extreme situation. If a child gets kidnapped, if a terrorist is trying to escape the city area after a recent attack, or if a shooting has just taken place, I have no problem with that line being drawn.

    I also have no problem with instituting this policy on major holidays where the number of drunk drivers is up exponentially. To me at least, that’s an extreme situation where lives can be saved. I don’t see Memorial Day as one in particular. But St. Patty’s, Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving… I’ve seen too many fatalities and reckless drivers (many of which I 911′d) to have a proverbial laissez-faire viewpoint.

    Speedtraps are another issue entirely. I really wouldn’t mind writing an article on that particular topic.

  • avatar

    I’ve got a hypothetical question:

    If the cops have a roadblock set up…you blow in the tube and come out clean, but then the cops see that you have a [something illegal] sitting on the back seat and arrest you…you should get out of it on a 4th amendment violation…they stopped without reasonable cause so the following discovery would be illegal…at least it seems to me.

    The libertarian in me feels that it’s a real travesty to freedom. Driving is a privilege, which is why you can lose your license if you break one of many traffic laws…but just because it’s a privilege doesn’t mean that it doesn’t fall under 4th amendment coverage.

    I currently live in France where the “f” is closer to fascism than to freedom in terms of protections that Americans take for granted. I was just reading the laws about DUI. If you’re caught between .05 and .08 it’s considered DUI, you pay a fine of 135E and you lose (gain, depending on how your state’s point system works) 6 points out of 12 on your license. IF you decide to go to court to challenge it, the judge can make you pay up to 750E and suspend your license up to 3 years. How fucked up is that? There’s no theory of innocent until proven guilty in this country…It’s guilty until proven guilty basically.

  • avatar

    Brian E:
    It’s section 215.

    I began to review it since you brought it up, and now I’m not sure it applies to the example I gave earlier (the warrantless “sneak-and-peak” searches). Those may still require probable cause. Section 215 allows the FBI to do records searches without demonstrating probable cause, which, while unconstitutional, does not offend me nearly as much as a physical search.

  • avatar

    Stein X Leikanger my point was that England is a western democracy they are a country of courts and laws and yet they and many other western democracies simply do not have the same constitutional protections as the US. The US did have its own civil war. It is one thing to declare martial law and have the army patroling the streets but in the US we don’t allow the army to arrest civilians.

    I was told in Florida if you refuse a sobriety test your license is suspended. However I am not sure if they give the breathalyser sobriety test at the check points.

    It doen’t matter what the goal is or how high minded or what the risk factors. I think the police here just ask to see your license and registration and act if they see slurred speach or other impaired behavior. We don’t have to answer police questions but I do to avoid hassles .

    The police were searching everyone in Tampa entering Raymond James stadium prior to footbal games to prevent any terrorist type incidents. It was stopped by the courts. However I believe it would have been legal for either a private security firm to do that or if they had published the fact prior to ticket sales that you would be searched if you attended the game.

  • avatar

    The case to which everyone is referring is Johnston v. Tampa Sports Authority, 442 F.Supp.2d 1257
    M.D.Fla.,2006. The relevant quote is as follows: “This type of implied consent (to be searched upon entering a stadium), where the government conditions receipt of a benefit (attending the Stadium event) on the waiver of a constitutional right (the right to be free from suspicionless searches), has been deemed invalid as an unconstitutional condition.” Note that the court did not address the effectiveness of the search.

    In an effort to discourage flaming I will simply state that it is not sophomoric to explain the practicalities of the law. There are costs and benefits, however unfortunate they may be, to every legal decision. Society must accept a certain number of deaths from drunk driving just like it must accept a certain amount of armed robberies because the police are not allowed to search everyone they happen to see on the street. It is simple economics. There is no denying the truth that we trade security for freedom and, tragically, lives may be lost in the process. If this truth cannot be accepted, then please do not read on.

    From what I gather, Stein X Leikanger seems to consider himself/herself a lawyer (if this is true, the ethical problems in the “outrunning the police story” he relates worry me) or at least a legal expert by virtue of “experience” with police roadblocks. If he had done a bit of research, he could have clearly seen that simply being in a “restricted arena” does not simply suspend ones constitutional rights. This is evidenced by the Tampa Sports case and others like it.

    I am willing to grant Stein X Leikanger (as is the Supreme Court) that stopping intoxicated people from driving may be a “special need.” The article above seems to suggest that there may be other, more effective ways to control drunk driving. Stein X Leikanger fails to offer any hard evidence in support in support of his theory that the roadblocks are effective – citing personal history as evidence that roadblocks are effective won’t cut it in court and certainly won’t cut it for me. The fact that a need is “special” does not make ANY search to address that need, reasonable. The article above makes a whole host of points about the possible ineffectiveness of police DUI checkpoints. I suggest that Stein X Leikanger support or refute the points in the article with sufficient legal or factual evidence and refrain from making personal attacks.

    On a side note: I have actually read that in FL, one does not necessarily get their license suspended after refusing a sobriety test. It is one of the last states in the Union where this is true. However, I agree that even though one has a right not to do things like answer police questions, it may be prudent just to avoid hassle and do it.

  • avatar

    Turkeey many Europeans (I am assuming Stein X Leikanger is one based on his website) have a different perspective and understanding of law because of their background which obviouslly differs from the US.

  • avatar

    Turkeey many Europeans (I am assuming Stein X Leikanger is one based on his website) have a different perspective and understanding of law because of their background which obviouslly differs from the US.

    Perhaps before calling someone’s opinions sophomoric he should have thought that someone in the US might have a different understanding of the law. Because the article deals with the views of the American Beverage Association, cites statistics from the DOJ, and says that many AMERICANS consider police roadblocks the equivalent of fascism, I assumed we would be considering American law. However, I am fully aware that Europeans may have a different perspective. It’s perfectly fine with me if someone from another country has a different perspective. Furthermore, I would be perfectly willing to listen to statistics or law that might justify police DUI checkpoints. Just don’t call my views sophomoric while supporting your own with “personal experience.”

  • avatar

    Turkeey – I’ll take back the sophomoric.

    Do, however, study the following excerpt from your entry above:

    I realize it is difficult for someone who has had a loved one killed by a drunk driver; however, we must realize that we live in a country where there are certain times when we are willing to sacrifice lives so that our freedom can be preserved. It is a harsh truth to someone who has had a loved one killed, but a truth nonetheless. Freedom has a price – something that Mr. Franklin clearly did not understand (“those who would trade security for liberty deserve neither” – if that quote was indeed his).

  • avatar

    My problem with DUI police roadblocks is that they sit on top of a ‘slippery slope’.

    I remember when they were first implemented in California, some enterprising police departments decided “Hell, since we got the car stopped anyway, let’s have the drug-sniffing dogs give it a once-over”.

    Thankfully, someone brought this to the attention of the California courts and the practice was soon stopped.

    Knowing how governments and police officers think, I don’t believe that will be that last time that someone decides “Since we have you stopped at a DUI checkpoint anyway….”. They will choose expediency over protecting civil rights 99.5 times out of 100.

  • avatar

    I’ve been pulled over three times (VA) in the past year and a half, all for the usual license and registration check, and, oh yes sir, I smell alcohol on your breath, please get off the bike.

    Incidentally(?), each time I’ve been on the Harley, it’s been a weekend evening, and my club colors are on my back. So I run through all the side-of-the-road calisthenics, repeat sections of the alphabet backwards on command, and finally blow into the little box. No, in VA you cannot just cut through to the breathalyzer, you have to go through all the other garbage first. Oh yeah, the results? Lowest reading was a .01, highest they ever pinned on me was a .04 (half the legal limit in VA – two beers). C’mon guys, I’m not that stupid.

    Saturday afternoon was the club’s annual Steak Day party for the holiday weekend. By early evening, we had a total of three deputy sheriffs parked down the road in both directions from the site waiting for us to break for the night. Isn’t it so wonderful that they’re looking out for our safety? (It is about safety, isn’t it?) We sent one absolutely sober guy in each direction, let him get stopped, and then the rest of us rolled through in a pack. Problem solved.

  • avatar


    Seems there’s room for concern. The “powers” granted in Northern Ireland are now sought extended to all of the UK …,,-6664127,00.html

  • avatar


    As I said, lots of casuistry in this thread.

    This dissenting opinion (taking your POV) gives a thorough run-through of the issue, in my opinion — inspired by the law officers going beyond the scope of their search.

    Cached on Google if findlaw locks you out:

  • avatar

    just wanted to post this link to a bit of research about the Franklin quote as this quote is often paraphrased:$605
    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

  • avatar

    @salokj: “I’ve got a hypothetical question:

    If the cops have a roadblock set up…you blow in the tube and come out clean, but then the cops see that you have a [something illegal] sitting on the back seat and arrest you…you should get out of it on a 4th amendment violation…they stopped without reasonable cause so the following discovery would be illegal…at least it seems to me.”

    I’m a little late to the party, here, so my comment may get ignored. The way that the cops get around violating the 4th amendment issues (at least in Colorado) is to put up a sign before the checkpoint giving you time to turn around and avoid the checkpoint. That way they say that if you continue on, you’ve given implicit consent to the stop and the cursory search of your car.

    Every time I’ve come across a checkpoint, I’ve been absolutely sober (i.e. no drinking at all that day), so I always try to make a big show about turning around and avoiding the checkpoint, just so that a cop would get suspicious and follow me. I want cause problems and try to get a warrentless search so that I could screw them in the courts. But they’ve never taken my bait.

  • avatar

    Roadblocks are about making money not improving safety. In many states you are impaired at .06. Lowering the bac to that level and setting up roadblocks serves to catch those who are driving perfectly well but had 2 glasses of wine with dinner.

    Another trick is the sobriety test. You should never do this! They ask you to perform all of these tasks to give them evidence to use against you in court. No matter how well you do, the cops version will make you sound like a raving drunk.

  • avatar

    After having read this thread, I am not at all surprised at how many of you belive that a) a few drinks is OK and b) we are about to live in a fascist state. First, if you ever try to play computer games while drinking, you will quickly realize that your reaction time drops after 1 drink. So if you are steering a killing machine – read motor vehicle – a few drinks is not OK. Second – Having grown up on the US- Canada border, I have seen all kinds of fascist-like actions at the border and they are increasing. So, yes it is a concern, in both Canada and the US. As far a search & seizure, once you are stopped, they still need reasonable cause. As an anecdote, One Friday night, my wife and I were returning home from a town 30 miles away , with our daughter's Harp case in the back of the van. We were stopped at a sobriety check point outside the American Legion. The young State Trooper saw this large, metal coffin like box in the back. It was a hoot watching him look at it and try to figure out what question he was constitutionally allowed to ask. We having been trained at border crossings, only answer the questions asked and with as few words as possible, "Yes" or "no" being the preferred response. In conclusion, I do not believe any responsible person should drive after consuming any amount of alcohol, but I do not believe that check points are an answer to fixing the problem. Stiffer and consistent enforcement of the laws we have would be a better deterent. PS. I live in New York State. My parents live in Canada. Because of Canadian laws,if I were to be found guilty of DUI I might not be allowed back into Canada. Something about convicted felons entering the country.

  • avatar

    There was a case a few years where a driver made a U-turn out of a line of cars for a checkpoint and was chased down by the police for doing so. The authorities tried to assert that U-turning from a checkpoint line was probably cause but in the end the case was dismissed. Preferring not to wait for them to sniff everyone’s breath is not criminal intent. So if you see a line with the cones, cop cars, and flashlights make a U-turn and go another way.

    Drunk driving convictions are profitable. The system does not make money from other offenses like drug dealing or other felonies. While everyone has their own horror story about a drunk driver there are plenty of worse stories about crimes that are committed while police are committed to DUI patrol.

    Set up on bars and catch them in the lot. Bars would see this and clean up their act by refusing to serve loaded customers, then everyone wins.

  • avatar

    Seat belt checkpoints are popular in Indianapolis.
    You will have a dozen troopers/locals manning an intersection for an afternoon.
    Meanwhile violent crime is surging, largely driven by drug-related activity. I’m not knocking the cops, but I’m sure they prefer seat belt duty in a nice neighborhood to aggressively patrolling the bad parts of town.

  • avatar

    Stein X Leikanger: As turkeey will discover, certain rights and privileges can (and are) temporarily suspended to the benefit of all, perfectly in accordance with the Constitution.

    And, as Stein X Leikanger will discover, the suspension of the Constitution is (supposedly) reserved for genuine emergency situations, and if we are now defining closing time at the local bars as an emergency situation, then we are indeed falling down the slippery slope.

    So far, I’m seeing a law student put forth good, solid, law-based arguments, and a marketing specialist fail to distinguish between scenarios that occur in Europe and Australia (hint – the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply in those places) and those that occur in the U.S, while offering up all sorts of emotional arguments (YOUR LOVED ONES WILL DIE IF WE STOP POLICE ROAD BLOCKS!) as a substitute for rational discussion.

    But, keep on trying…

    Stein X Leikanger:(And common sense – something Ben Franklin was also solidly in favor of).

    And, as someone who has at least a passing knowledge of Mr. Franklin’s outlook on life, I suspect that he would like to know definitely whether these roadblocks are effective from both a life-saving standpoint, and a manpower-deployment standpoint (police officers working the road blocks aren’t performing other duties).

    So far, I’ve seen only conflicting proof that they are – but lots of claims that opposition to police road blocks is tantamount to favoring slaughter in the streets at the hands of drunk drivers.

  • avatar

    Stein X Leikanger: As turkeey will discover, certain rights and privileges can (and are) temporarily suspended to the benefit of all, perfectly in accordance with the Constitution.

    And, as Stein X Leikanger will discover, the suspension of the Constitution is (supposedly) reserved for genuine emergency situations, and if we are now defining closing time at the local bars as an emergency situation, then we are indeed falling down the slippery slope.

    So far, I’m seeing a law student put forth good, solid, law-based arguments, and a marketing specialist fail to distinguish between scenarios that occur in Europe and Australia (hint – the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply in those places) and those that occur in the U.S, while offering up all sorts of emotional arguments.

    But, keep on trying…

  • avatar

    I have had drunk drivers touch my life. One of my mother's cousins lost her unborn child when she was struck by a drunk driver, and one of my own cousins suffered brain damage and nearly died-the doctors gave him literally zero chance of living and recommended removing life support-when a drunk driver with prior convictions hit him. however, I am against random road blocks and searches by the police. I really don't care what the purpose is, it is a red herring in my opinion, just an excuse to circumvent the Constitution, an excuse which the courts have allowed. Compare this to the hue and cry about profiling. First in terms of the type of vehicle driven and occupants when deciding to stop a car along the I5 corridor to search for drugs, and more recently regarding airport screening. In which scenario is probable cause even possibly present? In the random search of persons and vehicles or searching persons and vehicles that fit a profile (e.g. how much do we have to fear from white anglo female and geriatrics in this country as opposed to young male arabs as possible terrorists?) What we really need is to treat drunks the same as we would a person using a fire arm. If somebody were to indiscriminately shoot a gun and kill another person, that would be second degree murder. If somebody kills another person while driving drunk, at most they get vehicular manslaughter (they were drunk and could have no intent or understanding of the possible results from their actions). Why is it better to be drunk and kill somebody than to be stone cold sober? Is there a reason for not punishing drunk drivers for their actions beyond it is a cost drain instead of a revenue enhancement?

  • avatar
    Jon Paul

    I found this page from the CDC concerning the efficacy of roadblocks. The condensed version: about a 20 percent reduction in alcohol related crashes

  • avatar

    I have always found it interesting that there are public service announcements telling us not to “drink and drive” while bars exist. Seems like most people going to a bar are there to drink, right? I suppose we should abolish the serving of alcohol anywhere outside of the home.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Turkeey: If and when you get to law school you’ll want to take Criminal Procedure (which is actually a Constitutional Law course about the 4th and 5th amendments.) I don’t have the cites handy but the short answer is that the Supreme Court has held that roadblocks for DUI enforcement (and enforcement of other traffic laws) are legal but roadblocks for non-traffic related crimes are not (the case in question took place in Indiana, I believe, where the police were setting up roadblocks to curb drug trafficking.)

    SalokJ: Regarding your hypothetical: If the item is in plain sight and the police see it, it can constitute probable cause to arrest you. It can also constitute probable cause to search the car. Remember that the police do not need a warrant to search an automobile on the highway, they only need probable cause. [Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925)]

    The drug dog question is an interesting one. There was a Supreme Court opinion a couple of years ago that held that a drug dog sniff was not a “search” within the meaning of the 4th amendment and therefore could be conducted without even reasonable suspicion, much less probable cause. Of course, if the dog “hit” on a targeted vehicle, that, by itself, can be enough to establish the probable cause neccessary to justify a vehicle search.

  • avatar

    I came across this article while on a break from studying for the bar exam. I figured it would be good review to post the info I have on Federal Criminal Procedure concerning roadblocks. Let me preface this by stating that every State can grant greater Constitutional protection to its citizens than the Constitution or Federal law provides (An example would be a State statute which requires the police to publish ahead of time in a local newspaper where sobreity road blocks will be placed), barring some exceptions. The point is, that a roadblock in one State, may not be legal in another State. Anyway here’s what I have regarding roadblocks:

    Stopping a car is a seizure under the 4th Amendment. As a result, police may not stop a car unless they have at least at reasonable suspicion that a law has been broken.

    However, in certain cases where special law enforcement needs are involved, it is Constitutional for police to set up roadblocks to stop cars without individualized reasonable suspicion or any suspicion.

    To be Constitutional, a roadblock must:
    1. Stop cars on the basis of some neutral, articulable standard (Such as stopping every other car or even every car). and
    2. Be designed to serve purposes closely related to a particular problem related to automobiles and their mobility.
    [See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979); and See Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000).

    A road block would likely be unconstitutional if, for example, the police stopped only cars driven by people under the age of 30 or people who drove cars worth less than 20,000 dollars. Either of these would fail the first prong of the test.

    Eitherway, the rationale for this is to satisfy the reasonableness standard in the 4th amendment. Everyone, I am sure, recognizes that drunk driving is a grave concern. Because a Constitutional roadblock does not single out anyone and offers some deterance to a problem on our roads, these roadblocks were deemed reasonable within the context of the 4th Amendment. Afterall, the 4th amendment provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

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